I never thought I'd see the day when YouTube and Google were accused of homophobia, but that day has come. And somehow, I'm right in the thick of it. YouTube and Google are getting slammed for advertising one of my videos.
Here's the relevant background.
On May 2, we launched the first video in our new animated series called "Consider This." The video was titled "Can You Be Gay and Christian?", and we promoted it through all of our normal social media and internet channels. We also paid for advertising on Facebook and YouTube. (Although we have roughly 1,300 videos on our YouTube channel, this was the first video we ever paid to advertise there.)
Our intended audience was primarily the conservative Christian community, because of which the ad words we used were Faith, Beliefs, Bible, Christian, Christianity, Family, Gay, God, Homosexual, Marriage.
The last thing we planned to do was advertise on LGBT-related channels on YouTube. That was never our intent or goal.
Apparently though, based on the subject matter and the words "gay" and "homosexual," an ad for the video began appearing on some LGBT channels.
This became apparent when disgruntled viewers began posting comments like, "Horrible Human Being. You're a moron. I just saw this [expletive] advertisement telling me I'm not gay!" And, "You make me sincerely sick, keep your dumb ads Off my page, go make your money somewhere else hypocrite." And, "Um can you please get this disgusting advertisement off my youtube videos."
It looks like we unintentionally hit a nerve! (Note also that we were not making money on this video; we were paying to get the message out.)
I also noticed a sudden surge of thumbs down responses to the video, along with a barrage of nasty and negative comments. The video was reaching a whole new audience.
A June 1 headline on LGBTQ nation asked, "Why is YouTube running anti-LGBTQ ads before videos?"
One of the ads in question featured a video from the Alliance Defending Freedom. But the video featured in the article was "Can You Be Gay and Christian?"
The article noted that, "YouTube has come under fire for putting anti-LGBTQ ads on LGBTQ videos.
"Twitter user Jace Aarons tweeted an example. He found an ad from Michael Brown, a conservative radio host, playing before a video from Chase Ross, a transgender YouTuber." How in the world did our ad end up there?
This prompted Chase (who has 145,000 subscribers) to express his frustration in his own YouTube video. In it, he took YouTube to task for allowing "an anti-LGBT ad, a very homophobic and transphobic company [to] advertise their message, their conversion therapy, their horrible, like, mean messages on my LGBT videos."
He also mocked YouTube for being "diverse" something like "once a month." (Obviously, Chase missed the irony of excoriating YouTube for allowing diverse viewpoints, since "diversity" in his book means pro-LGBT only.)
Chase was also mortified that anyone in 2018 could possibly argue that marriage was the union of a man and a woman. "Like we're still here? Like literally, what year are we in? 1810? 1940? Where are we?"
Pink News reported on this as well, with a headline stating, "YouTube under fire over 'homophobic' adverts potentially targeting LGBT YouTubers."
The article explains that, "One of the most criticized adverts comes from conservative radio host Michael Brown, whose two-minuite [sic] long advert condemns being gay using quotes from the bible."
Another LGBT website, We the Unicorns, carried a similar article, also referencing our video.
And Hank Green of hankschannel on YouTube (with 305,000 subscribers) produced a video expressing his anger.
He references "a preacher guy" who is "basically saying that he has the ultimate take on what Christianity is and that Christianity is incompatible with homosexuality. And you know this because he is right. You can tell, because of his mustache."
And because our video is nicely illustrated, Hank refers to it as "the prettied-up version of hate, and it's just like, 'Here's what the Bible says.'" It's "shined up hate," he says.
At the time of this writing, Hank's video had been watched more than 115,000 times and had more than 17,000 thumbs up responses.
Commenters responding to Hank's video likened me to ISIS and the KKK, claimed our biblical arguments were "another form of racism," and stated that "HATE GROUPS DONT DESERVE EQUAL RIGHTS" (their emphasis). A self-identified pansexual transboy also expressed his outrage. (If you not have yet watched our video, I encourage you to take six minutes to do so, asking yourself where the "hate" is. Also, if you enjoy the video, share it with your friends and give it a thumbs up, since we were flooded with a spate of thumbs down reviews when the ads hit these LGBT channels. You can even get involved in the comments section.)
A video from InformOverload (with one million subscribers) references our video, claiming that the ad "basically consists of two-minutes of [me] ranting about how being gay is bad while at the same time sharing quotes from the Bible"). Commenters are then asked to respond to the question, "Is YouTube homophobic?" (One commenter wrote, "This is so wrong Why do still have people who think it's 16th century and believe earth is flat and LGBT is bad.")
The INTO website reported that, "LGBTQ YouTube Videos Are Being Served With Anti-LGBTQ Ads," with our video once again featured front and center. "One fan alerted trans YouTuber Chase Ross that his video titled, 'Five Years Post-Op Emotional Transition,' featured an ad about 'sinful desires,' condemning—you guessed it!—same-sex attraction. The ad is a clip from the YouTube account 'Ask Dr. Brown,' and is called 'Can You Be Gay and Christian'?"
The article also notes that, "A Google spokesperson told INTO that the platform has policies against ads 'that incite hatred or promote discrimination, and all ads that run on the platform have to comply with these policies.'"
Obviously, the Google accountant who worked with us and reviewed our video did not feel it incited hatred or promoted discrimination (it does neither). But since LGBT channels on YouTube have apparently faced the same problems conservative channels have faced—with videos being demonetized or worse—INTO also quoted bisexual YouTuber Dodie Clark. She tweeted, "how the actual [expletive] is YouTube automatically branding anything LGBTQ+ not suitable for advertising and yet allowing anti-gay (ANTI GAY?!! what is this the 1940s?!) adverts on our videos?! i mean that's just plain and simple homophobia right?! the platform we use is homophobic?"
YouTube is obviously between a rock and a hard place, and it will be interesting to see what happens in the days ahead. It looks like everyone has something to complain about when it comes to wanting a level playing field. Yet it's hard to imagine that no one will ever be offended by an ad that runs on their channel.
On my end, I'm glad our video is getting the added attention. (May it get far more in the days ahead!). And I'm glad lots of folks are watching it who would not have seen it otherwise. (One woman commented on Hank's video that watching the two-minute ad has started to convince her that homosexual practice is wrong. I hope she watches the whole video and then studies the Scriptures for herself.)
But I fully understand the frustration expressed by these LGBT viewers, since our ads appearing on their channels felt to them like an invasion of their safe space (or worse). That was never my intent, and as we craft ads in the future, we'll do our best to avoid offending anyone unnecessarily.
That being said, if the content of the video offends, so be it. We spoke the truth in love, and it is that God's truth sets us free.
Dr. Michael Brown (www.askdrbrown.org) is the host of the nationally syndicated Line of Fire radio program. His latest book is Evangelicals at the Crossroads: Will We Pass the Trump Test? Connect with him on Facebook or Twitter, or YouTube.
Never miss another Spirit-filled news story again. Get Charisma's best content delivered right to your inbox! Click here to subscribe to the Charisma News newsletter.
Three Summer Deals from Charisma: