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Restricted Mode: How it works and what we can do better

By Johanna Wright

Vice President of Product Management At YouTube


Over the last several months, and most definitely over the last few days from LGBTQ and other communities, we’ve gotten lots of questions around what Restricted Mode is and how it works. We understand that this has been confusing and upsetting, and many of you have raised concerns about Restricted Mode and your content being unfairly impacted. The bottom line is that this feature isn’t working the way it should. We’re sorry and we’re going to fix it.

We introduced Restricted Mode back in 2010 as an optional feature to help institutions like schools as well as people who wanted to better control the content they see on YouTube. We designed this feature to broadly restrict content across more mature topics, whether these are videos that contain profanity, those that depict images or descriptions of violence, or discussion of certain diseases like addictions and eating disorders. Today, about 1.5 percent of YouTube’s daily views come from people who have Restricted Mode turned on. But we know this isn’t about numbers; it’s about the principle of anyone having access to important content and different points of view. You can read more about how Restricted Mode works here.

Our system sometimes make mistakes in understanding context and nuances when it assesses which videos to make available in Restricted Mode. For instance, the following videos are examples of where we got it wrong: Ash Hardell’s “Her Vows,” Calum McSwiggan’s “Coming Out To Grandma,” Jono and Ben’s “Woman interrupted during BBC interview,” and Tegan and Sara’s “BWU [OFFICIAL MUSIC VIDEO].”

While the system will never be 100 percent perfect, as we said up top, we must and will do a better job. Thanks to your feedback, we’ve manually reviewed the example videos mentioned above and made sure they’re now available in Restricted Mode -- we’ll also be using this input to better train our systems. It will take time to fully audit our technology and roll out new changes, so please bear with us. There’s nothing more important to us than being a platform where anyone can belong, have a voice and speak out when they believe something needs to be changed. We truly appreciate your help keeping the YouTube community active and engaged on topics that matter to creators and YouTube fans alike.