A month after the pedophilia scandal was exposed things haven’t changed much on YouTube.
In February, Mark Watson from the YouTube channel MattsWhatItIs exposed the YouTube wormhole that hosts and recommends soft-core pedophilia (see below). YouTube’s recommendation algorithm is facilitating predatory behavior towards children. At the time, YouTube was already flagging the videos and turning off the comments section. Meaning that they were aware of the problem. Such videos were being monetized at the time, and easily available for users to watch. MattsWhatItIs’s exposé video has attracted 3 billion views and several YouTubers have translated the content to different languages to create awareness.
In 2017, YouTube created a blocking comments policy to protect minors, “blocking inappropriate comments on videos featuring minors” by combining automated systems and human flagging to review and remove inappropriate sexual or predatory comments. Together with the NCMEC, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, they are working to report illegal behavior to law enforcement in the US.
Since Watson’s video went viral YouTube updated the way they give Community Guidelines strikes to be more “transparent and consistent”, together with an update in their algorithm. According to the company “Efforts are focused on videos with young children” but soon will be expanded to videos that feature young minors. However, channels that demonstrate a low risk for predatory behavior will be still able to function.”A small number of creators will be able to keep comments active on this type of videos”, such creators will have to closely monitor the comments and not only rely on YouTube mechanics.
The update came a week after Disney, Fortnite maker Epic Games, Nestle and other companies pulled their ads from YouTube. More than 400 channels were removed from the air, and hundreds of commentators’ accounts were closed. It is relevant to remind that YouTube prohibits advertisement on videos that have Cuss words, Toy guns, Alcohol/marijuana use even if legal, and Crude jokes.
Watson’s video showed that every account, especially new ones are only 5 to 7 clicks away from a world full of soft-phenolic content. A simple search as “bikini” can lead you to children’s content. The software uses your clicks to create a pattern and recommend you similar content. Meaning that YouTube is not only displaying the content but also offering it as a recommendation. In the comments section, Watson showed pedophiles sexualizing children, time stamping videos to easily access what they see as sexual stimulative scenes, they are sharing links to child pornography, and sharing contact information to each other in order to create a social media network of their own.
More than a month since the scandal happened, I gave it a try and looked for the wormhole myself to see if the measures taken by YouTube and Google were effective. The answer is NO, they weren’t. With a new YouTube account, I was able to access the same material in no less than 7 clicks. Some videos have the comments sessions blocked, but I was still able to get to videos were children were being sexualized in the comments. The disgusting behavior in most cases comes from adult men. They sexualize children in the comments in every possible language. The number of timestamps leading to “sexual stimulative” scenes has reduced, and I have not seen links on the comment section. Meaning that YouTube is doing a better job at monitoring the comments, but it does not prevent pedophiles to watch the videos. My search started with the word “Bikini” and showed no different result than when Watson shows in his expose video. The comments and the monetizing problem are being tackled and hopefully will be solved soon. But that is not the end of it.
YouTube as the biggest video platform worldwide should be more restricted to what is uploaded to its platform. Most of these children are not old enough to be on the platform, under 13 years old, but their videos are still online. Not wanting to hurt the content creator, allows this wormhole to survive. In fact, most videos are not in their original channels. Taking them down would in any way be unfair to the creators. Pedophiles are re-uploading videos and tricking YouTube’s efforts. It is easy to create a new account, a new email and still be part f this discussing network.
YouTube should not only look into the comments but act as if they were in a global crisis. The company should start efforts together with local and national governments to track pedophiles. Google and YouTube are aware of the problem for a long time now, the issue has been reported in several media outlets for the past year. They have not solved it and it took a viral video to wake them to the seriousness of the issue. In fact, it took the loss of advertising money to make them care for the situation. Disabling comments still allows pedophiles to watch the content. The children that make those videos with innocence a child are being perpetually harmed with the exploitation and sexualization of their image. #YouTubeWakeUp .