YouTube Deplatforms Joseph Nicolosi, the “Father of Conversion Therapy,” After GPAHE Report

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In late March, the far-right Heritage Foundation reported in its publication, The Daily Signal, that the YouTube account for Joseph Nicolosi, Sr., now deceased and considered the “father of conversion therapy,” had been permanently removed for violating the company’s hate speech policy. In 2019, Nicolosi, Sr.’s, books were removed from Amazon for violating that site’s content guidelines. 

Quoted in the article, Nicolosi’s son, Joseph Nicolosi, Jr., pointed to a January 2024 report by the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism (GPAHE), “Conversion Therapy Online: The Ecosystem in 2023” as the likely motivation for the YouTube ban. He highlighted the fact that the report mentioned the Nicolosi’s dozens of times and criticized YouTube for allowing such content to flourish on its platform. Nicolosi, Jr. is no doubt still feeling the sting of GPAHE getting his own YouTube channel deplatformed in 2022.

GPAHE’s report, the third in a series on how conversion therapy flourishes worldwide on online platforms, urged companies to clamp down on the “medical disinformation” of “conversion therapy,” warning that it is “dangerous, and sometimes deadly, to allow pro-conversion therapy material to surface.” GPAHE specifically called on YouTube to clean up its site. 

Nicolosi, Sr. (1947-2017) was an American clinical psychologist who developed a “therapy” so harmful that it has been described as akin to torture by a UN independent expert who also called for a ban on these practices. This “therapy” can lead to clinical depression and an increase in suicide attempts, in addition to other possible dangers. Nearly every reputable medical and psychological association worldwide has said the same, including the AMA, and have endorsed banning the “therapy.” As of this past January, 26 countries and dozens of American states have banned conversion therapy, most often for minors. Even so, many Christian Nationalist organizations advocate for the practice, and current House Speaker Mike Johnson once worked closely with the now defunct “ex-gay” group, Exodus International.

Nicolosi Sr. argued in his book, Reparative Therapy of Male Homosexuality, that being gay was the result of a “gender-identity deficit” caused by alienation from “formative individuals of the subject’s gender which interrupts normal masculine or feminine identification process.” Multiple scientific studies have found this idea to be false, and rejected Nicolosi’s assertion that parents play a role in the development of sexual orientation. His son, Nicolosi, Jr., built on this work, tweaking it a bit and rebranding his own version that he called Reintegrative Therapy, and an organization to push it, the Reintegrative Therapy Association. 

After GPAHE released its first two reports on conversion therapy online in 2022, YouTube deleted Nicolosi, Jr.’s, Reintegrative Therapy Association’s account for what it called “repeated or severe violations of our Community Guidelines on Hate Speech.” Nicolosi, Jr., told The Daily Signal, that GPAHE’s earlier reports were referred to in a 2022 Forbes article, “Tech Giants ‘Failing’ To Block Global LGBTQ Conversion Therapy Network,” just before he was deplatformed. “The Forbes article repeatedly mentioned Reintegrative Therapy and came out less than three days before our channel was banned,” Nicolosi said at the time. The story, based on GPAHE’s research, “specifically ordered Big Tech to cancel our content,” Nicolosi complained.

GPAHE’s research has led to the deplatforming of dozens of harmful conversion therapy accounts from YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and other platforms. It has also influenced search companies like Google and Bing to improve their results by returning more authoritative information. Even so, there is more work to be done, particularly in languages other than English and  for terms such as “same-sex attraction” that are used as euphemisms for conversion therapy providers attempting to evade bans on their content.

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