YouTube has reinstated a fetish website’s promotional videos after allegations they were being removed because they featured gay men, while comparable videos featuring heterosexuals were being left online.
Recon is a popular gay fetish community website with over 40,000 members. It offers networking, videos, and an online store for those interested in, among other things, “bondage”, “bikers”, “fisting”, “hoods and masks”, “leather” and – a fetish seen on a widely watched TV documentary – “pups”.
Its YouTube channel, which was suspended this month despite having existed for several years, has recently passed 1 million views. It contains footage from all aspects of the brand – behind the scenes from photo shoots, interviews with members of the fetish community, and promotional videos for fetish gear from the website’s online store.
A day after BuzzFeed News approached YouTube to ask why the videos were being taken down while comparable heterosexual ones were still live on the site, Recon's account was reinstated.
YouTube told Recon in an email earlier this month that it had suspended the account due to its “three strikes” rule, which meant it had previously removed three of its videos in six months. YouTube had begun to take action against the site in March, placing age restrictions on the content and then removing it.
YouTube wrote: “YouTube isn't the place for sexually provocative content. In addition to this, violent, graphic, or humiliating fetishes aren't allowed on YouTube, and videos containing this type of content will be removed.”
However, a spokesperson for Recon told BuzzFeed News they felt the content only “bordered provocative” due to the fetish nature of the videos, and was “by no means full-on or explicit”. An example of one of the previously banned videos is below:
The company’s spokesperson pointed out that there are “hundreds, probably thousands of videos on YouTube of women being sexually provocative in latex with thousands of views”. A brief search of the site appears to confirm this is the case.
Recon’s spokesperson added: “It seems unfair and a bit strange that some of these videos have been up for years but only now been highlighted as problematic. It feels as those we’re being targeted or penalised because our content is about gay fetish.”
BuzzFeed News contacted YouTube, and a spokesperson for the site said: “With the massive volume of videos on our site, sometimes we make the wrong call. When it's brought to our attention that a video or channel has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it. We have an appeals process in place for users, and when it's brought to our attention that a video has been removed mistakenly, we act quickly to reinstate it."
A day later, Recon’s account had been reinstated. In an email from YouTube, the company was told: “After further review, we've determined that while your video does not violate our Community Guidelines, it may not be appropriate for a general audience. We have therefore age-restricted your video. This does not negatively impact your account standing.”
A spokesperson for Recon told BuzzFeed News: "We’re thrilled to have our channel back! We would love to work with YouTube to figure out what their community guidelines mean for brands/individuals who create and broadcast material a little bit outside of the norm."
They went on: "However we are disappointed that our total channel views in excess of 1 million have been removed. This obviously puts restrictions on our content being more widely seen by the YouTube community. A lot of time and effort was put into building our presence as it can be difficult to reach the likeminded people who most connect with what we do.
"We know that YouTube understands the wide variety of human interests and tastes, and we’re hopeful that they’ll return our channel views so that we can continue to engage with our members and fans around the world."