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SEXTECHGUIDE vs. YouTube: Unpacking the double standards in adult content moderation

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This is a bit of an unusual post on SEXTECHGUIDE, as we normally focus on news, reviews and everything else in the world of sextech from other companies, but today, we’re going to focus on us for a little bit. To not bury the lede, let’s quickly address the ‘news’ part of this post: SEXTECHGUIDE’s YouTube channel has been permanently banned this weekend (June 15, 2024).

As a small independent publisher trying to survive in a world of AI-scraped, stolen and regurgitated content, access to platforms that most people use would be hugely beneficial, not only for the potential of reaching new audiences, but also because ‘social signals’ are a part of Google Search’s ranking algorithms.

In search results based on ill-defined (or indeed, deliberately not defined) authority and trust measures, active social media (and other types of site) channels help search engines realise that your site is a trustworthy and worthwhile place to visit on the web.

What YouTube provides for small independent creators is a ludicrously large and captive audience – but its secondary benefits are pretty significant for small businesses too. For example, storing and streaming online video takes a lot of data and can significantly add to any hosting costs, should you choose to host it yourself. Now, we don’t have access to that, as Big Tech’s campaign against sexual pleasure continues to discriminate against small businesses, so if we wanted to continue to produce videos, we’d have to do it all ourself in-house, from creation to streaming, and as a small business, this simply isn’t an option.

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This isn’t really a surprise, but it’s still wrong

While this is annoying, it’s not much of a surprise in some way. Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and pretty much any other major social platform you can name already has some history of struggling to fairly deal with adult creators, while protecting other users on those platforms. Shadow-bans, account removal and the raft of measures in between have been bluntly deployed, incorrectly, thousands—if not hundreds of thousands or millions—of times already. The result is anything even vaguely ‘adult’ related being restricted to ‘adult’ platforms, which might sound correct at first parse, but it ignores any broader context and assumes a position of moral absolutism. It’s like saying that swimwear is only relevant for the beach – not fitness, fashion, travel, etc.

Adult topics, and yes, adult content can have educational, therapeutic, health-related and entertainment purposes that extend well beyond the typical associations. Broad restrictions prevent meaningful engagement, and stifle conversation., creating a closed loop of excluded discussions that need to take place in smaller, ‘dimly lit’ rooms.

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Back to YouTube, topically

SEXTECHGUIDE has been around since 2016, and in that eight years we’ve produced thousands of articles across a whole range of topics, none of which contain explicit content. Naturally, given we go to efforts to ensure there’s no sexually explicit content on our own site, we made the same efforts when producing YouTube videos.

Regardless of this – and the fact that we had only uploaded two videos in the past two years – our SEXTECHGUIDE channel was banned over the weekend. We appealed, and the appeal was rejected. Therefore, our YouTube channel is dead. We have no idea why our channel was banned, which specific video(s) may have inadvertently caused a problem, and we have had zero opportunity to address any concerns. Hell, you can’t even get in contact with a person directly: it’s one-way customer service where the customer has no option for redress when things go wrong.

Thankfully, having been a tech journalist for over 15 years, I knew from day one that YouTube was not going to be a distribution channel that was going to be important to SEXTECHGUIDE. Honestly, the same is true of Instagram and whatever Twitter is calling itself this week too. We post occasionally, but we’re a tiny team with limited time, so can never justify putting the time and budget required to post more regularly on platforms that limit the reach of an audience.

If you are an adult brand, business, or creator, you need to ‘own’ your audience – that is, not be reliant on a third-party platform for your ability to reach those people.

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The double standard

While we’ve known this since the start, there’s one part of this equation that can’t easily be offset: the ‘authority’ that social media generates. Without participating in social media (or whichever platforms are most appropriate for your industry), search engines don’t get the same reassuring ‘quality’ signals about your website. Does that mean it’s impossible to exist or rank? No, of course not, but it does mean that it’s harder by default.

The ludicrous claim that our videos – primarily news focused and under 2 minutes – were promoting sexual material, while clips and discussions about explicit scenes from Game of Thrones have millions of views and are free to be monetized. What ‘rule’ should we take from this? Is sex only allowed if it’s not the focus of your channel? Only if you’re a more established creator? What exactly are the rules that allow so much content that should be banned to remain freely available, and educational content like ours is unacceptable? Why can legacy media brands like Cosmopolitan (just as an example) post sexual content under the leeway given to art, education and entertainment, but small brands are penalized regardless of the intent or context?

Smaller creators, independent companies and anyone on the fringes of the ‘adult’ industry are all treated as if they’re posting hardcore porn on every platform all day long. This really isn’t the case, and by ignoring the significant number of people who do want access to non-sensational, non-pornographic adult-related topics, these platforms disproportionately punishing smaller creators, and ensuring that only the biggest brands survive, rather than providing a ‘level playing field’ for everyone. The industry has already been effectively cut-out of mainstream banking, again forcing companies into the less well-lit corners of the adult world.

So, for now at least, our YouTube channel is dead, so you should definitely sign up to our newsletter and/or for notifications when we have a new story. We’re still on Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, Mastodon and Facebook too, but for obvious reasons, the methods below are the only sure-fire way to ensure you see our posts, and if you’re also an adult creator or brand, the same is likely true for you too. Ultimately, that’s bad for everyone.

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