YouTube is disabling comments on millions of videos that involve minors in response to allegations that the video hosting site is being used by a network of pedophiles.
According to investigation by Wired last week, pedophiles are allegedly communicating with each other through the platform’s comment sections.
Wired reported these users were commenting on videos of kids showing their “exposed buttocks, underwear and genitals” with timestamps of when the suggestive content can be seen. The outlet found hundreds of timestamps beneath videos for “when a child does the splits or lifts up their top to show their nipples,” for example.
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In a statement sent to Global News, YouTube Canada confirmed that it has begun suspending comments on most videoes that feature minors.
“Over the past week, we’ve been taking a number of steps to better protect children and families, including suspending comments on tens of millions of videos,” a spokesperson said.
“Now, we will begin suspending comments on most videos that feature minors, with the exception of a small number of channels that actively moderate their comments and take additional steps to protect children. We understand that comments are an important way creators build and connect with their audiences, we also know that this is the right thing to do to protect the YouTube community.”
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The global comment-disabling rollout will take several months.
Wired reports that the videos in question are being monetized by YouTube, and have pre-roll adverts from brands including Fiat, Fortnite, Grammarly, L’Oreal and Maybelline.
After news that pedophiles were communicating on monetized videos, advertisers including AT&T, Hasbro, Disney and Nestle pulled their ads from the platform. YouTube, which is owned by Google, said it is taking steps to ensure that such behaviour does not continue on the site.
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In the Wired investigation, the outlet wrote that “some of the children in the videos, most of whom are girls, appear to be as young as five. Many of the videos have hundreds of thousands, if not millions of views, with hundreds of comments.”
A spokesperson for Grammarly, which advertises on YouTube, told Wired it reached out to the organization when it learned of the news.
“We’re absolutely horrified and have reached out to YouTube to rectify this immediately,” a Grammarly spokesperson told the outlet.
“We have a strict policy against advertising alongside harmful or offensive content. We would never knowingly associate ourselves with channels like this.”