University of Salford
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'The hidden machine: uncovering problems with YouTube for independent sexual health learning'

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posted on 2022-06-06, 15:14 authored by Lisa Garwood-Cross


This research sought to understand the possibilities and problems of using YouTube influencer content for 13-24-year-olds' independent learning about sex, relationships and sexual health.

This research found that although YouTube has benefits for independent sexual health learning, such as the potential for YouTube sex education influencers to act as trusted peer-educators, there are significant concerns about the way YouTube may limit young people's ability to meet their sexual health information needs.

YouTube's invisible machine learning algorithms make hidden value judgements of what content can be seen by whom. They may lack the human discretion to differentiate between educational content about sex and relationships and sexual content designed to arouse. Therefore, quietly, through policy and algorithm, YouTube make hidden decisions based on suitability for 'family-friendly' advertising, content and flagging that restrict or demonetise influencer sexual health content on the platform, restricting the potential for independent sexual health learning.