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YouTube on June 26 censored the live broadcasting of Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride Week’s annual Genetically Modified Tomatoes Awards, citing a violation of its “Terms of Service.”

Upon this move, the Pride Week’s committee announced that they were launching another broadcast with a separate link. YouTube also banned this link, as a result of which the famous Awards ceremony was moved to Zoom.

YouTube’s move drew ire among Turkish social media users, who wanted an apology and explanation for this action.

Istanbul Pride Week ever year draws attention to hate speech by high-profile homophobes and transphobes with the Genetically Modified Tomato Awards, which are determined through online votes. 

The name “Genetically Modified Tomato” dates back to 2005 when former football referee and current football commentator Erman Toroğlu declared, “don’t eat genetically modified tomatoes, they will make you gay.”

This statement had earned him the first ever Genetically Modified Tomato Award.

The Awards Ceremony is one where the handing of awards is accompanied not with applause but with booing.

The awards are given in several categories, such as TV, media, medicine and education. Some of the winners of this year were Turkey’s top cleric Ali Erbaş, British writer J.K. Rowling, Boğaziçi University Rectorate, pro-government columnist Hilal Kaplan, heart surgeon Metin Çakır who is based in Germany and journalist İsmail Küçükkaya who is the host of Fox TV’s “Çalar Saat” program.

This year’s Istanbul LGBTI+ Pride week started on June 22 with a week-long schedule, entirely planned online. The theme of the Pride Week was “Where am I?” focusing on safe spaces for queers during the COVID-19 pandemic and immigration.