As part of World AIDS Day 2021, a short film entitled [email protected]: When We Were Boys premiered on YouTube. However, the piece was not allowed to have the full impact that creators hoped, after being wrongfully “censored” and age-restricted by the platform.
The piece, which is under 10 minutes in length, features icons such as It’s A Sin’s Nathaniel Hall, and pop legends Erasure and Jimmy Somerville. It projects conversations surrounding HIV and AIDS, while also telling the story of London’s 1996 Pride celebrations, where 27,000 red balloons were released in front of 160,000 people, with the balloons representing all of the people living with HIV in England at that time.
The unique musical odyssey holds a powerful anti-stigma message and has been translated into seven different languages in order to reach and be accessible to as many viewers as possible. However, on the day where it had the potential to reach the most people, YouTube blocked the video for under-18s despite there being no explicit content.
LGBTQ+ activist, Peter Tatchell, is among those outraged at the “tragic” censorship. “The mistake and damage it caused, is not reversible,” he stated.
“The video evidences real-life examples of young gay men who contract HIV under 18. It presents up-to-date information and messaging, strongly illustrated the U=U message, and has a powerful anti-stigma, we hope, life-affirming stance.”
He continued by saying, “I believe the video would struggle to merit even a 12 if presented to BBFC – 18 is out of sight ridiculous […] The decision only reinforced the constructive homophobia and stigma that still, it seems, is all too present in 2021.”
CENSORSHIP! @YouTube is treating this #WorldAidsDay video like hard-core porn – subjecting it to age verification. https://t.co/ABPc3FMMG0
It's a short film about a gay teenager dealing with HIV+ diagnosis in 1990s London#UequalsU #WAD #WAD2021 #RockTheRibbon @NathanielJHall
— Peter Tatchell (@PeterTatchell) December 1, 2021
Director Rob Falconer added to this statement by saying, “The disrespect shown to people living with HIV everywhere was appalling.”
Although the restriction has since been lifted by YouTube, the film still lost its opportunity to launch seamlessly on World AIDS Day. Now standing at over 10,000 views, the question remains as to why the film was censored in the first place, and the Google-owned platform has yet to offer an explanation.
To watch [email protected]: When We Were Boys, click on the video below.
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