YouTube is “aggressively approaching” a solution to its recent child exploitation controversy by clamping down on monetization, increasing moderation, and addressing recommendation search issues.
This week, YouTube has further limited which videos some ads can run on and has applied those ad restrictions to millions of videos. What YouTube is trying to do is protect children as major companies, including Disney, Epic Games, AT&T, and Nestle, pull ads from the platform.
It’s a direct response to an ongoing campaign bringing attention to videos used by predators to exploit children.
Walt Disney Co. is said to have pulled its advertising spending from YouTube, joining other companies including Nestle SA, after a blogger detailed how comments on Google’s video site were being used to facilitate a “soft-core pedophilia ring.” Some of the videos involved ran next to ads placed by Disney and Nestle.
AT&T has pulled all advertising from YouTube while the streaming service deals with issues regarding predatory comments being left on videos of children, according to CNBC. AT&T had reportedly only just started running ads on YouTube again after pulling them during a controversy in 2017.
The campaign, organized by creator Matt Watson, specifically speaks to the fact that advertisers’ commercials are running on these videos.
YouTube says it may also ask creators to more rigorously moderate their comments. The memo also states that while the company carries the burden for the comments appearing on the site in the first place, “we can hold monetizing channel owners to a higher standard.”
A YouTube spokesperson said the company has taken a more continuous, aggressive approach to fighting this type of content and behavior on its platform, including hiring social workers, child development specialists, former prosecutors, and former FBI and CIA employees. The spokesperson also said that YouTube removes thousands of channels per week run by children under the age of 13.
One key change YouTube worked on in the wake of the scandal was addressing its recommendation algorithm. Watson showed that certain terms, like “bikini haul,” led the algorithm to suggest videos within five or six clicks that contained predatory comments.
YouTube realized that autocomplete suggestions may have increased the likelihood that someone would come across that content, and has taken action to remove those suggestions, according to a spokesperson. The recommendation algorithm has long been an issue for YouTube in a variety of areas, including surfacing conspiracy theories and hateful content, but the change seems to only affect this specific issue.
YouTube is facing criticism from users and advertisers, but other creators have come out in defense of the platform. “Once they were made aware of the offending content, they handled the situation,” commentator Philip DeFranco said. “The best thing we can do is report disgusting monsters like we would anywhere else on the internet.”
Other YouTube creators are concerned that a new adpocalypse – a word used to describe when YouTube heavily restrict ads – is on the horizon. “I’m not reporting the story because it negatively affects the whole YouTube community,” Daniel “Keemstar” Keem, the host of the popular show DramaAlert, tweeted earlier this week. “We don’t need another ad apocalypse.”
YouTube has taken similar issues in the past to address troubling content on the platform, leading to a reduction in revenue for creators outside of the controversy.
But even though YouTube addressed this particular controversy, critics of the company say they’re fed up that problems with child safety keep arising in the first place. For example, two years ago, YouTube faced a backlash after disturbing videos got past filters on YouTube Kids, a version of the service designed for children.But even though YouTube addressed this particular controversy, critics of the company say they’re fed up that problems with child safety keep arising in the first place. For example, two years ago, YouTube faced a backlash after disturbing videos got past filters on YouTube Kids, a version of the service designed for children.