YouTube in Hot Water Over Child Pornography Allegations

YouTube takes action after advertisers leave following concerns paedophiles have been exploiting the platform.
Friday 1 March 2019
YouTube has been taking an aggressive approach after allegations arose regarding pedophiles sharing links and comments on child pornography on the platform. Photo: AFP

Today’s content sharing platforms have benefited the majority of users but there are always users who will come up with ingenious methods to beat the system and misuse them to their personal benefit.

YouTube said recently that it was taking action to close a loophole that enabled users to share comments and links on child pornography over the video-sharing service. The response came after a YouTube creator this week revealed what he called a “wormhole” that allowed comments and connections on child porn alongside innocuous videos.

“Any content – including comments – that endangers minors is abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube,” a YouTube spokesman said in an email. “We took immediate action by deleting accounts and channels, reporting illegal activity to authorities and disabling comments on tens of millions of videos that include minors. There’s more to be done, and we continue to work to improve and catch abuse more quickly.”

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A ‘wormhole’ was spotted that allowed users to share comments and links on child pornography over YouTube. Photo: iStock

The move came after Matt Watson, a YouTube creator with some 26,000 subscribers, revealed the workings of what he termed a “wormhole” into a paedophile ring that allowed users to trade social media contacts and links to child porn in YouTube comments. Watson, who uses the name MattsWhatItIs, added that YouTube’s recommendation algorithm “due to some kind of glitch is actually facilitating this.”

Because ads automatically appear with many YouTube videos, Watson said the actions of the company amounted to “monetising” the exploitation. The post by Watson sparked a series of news reports, and according to some media, boycotts of YouTube ads from major firms including Nestle and Disney. The glitch appeared to allow some users to circumvent bans on child porn by Google and other internet platforms.

YouTube said it was taking “an aggressive approach, beyond our normal protections” by disabling comments on tens of millions of videos that include minors, and by removing “inappropriate comments” alongside videos. The company reviewed and removed thousands of inappropriate comments, terminated over 400 channels, and removed dozens of videos during the past 48 hours. They were also reporting any illegal comments to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children so the organisation could work with the appropriate authorities.

This is not the first time YouTube has found itself in hot water from companies whose advertisements ran before inappropriate content. In April last year, it was found that advertisements for more than 300 companies and organisations ran on YouTube channels promoting white nationalists, Nazis, pedophilia, conspiracy theories and North Korean propaganda.

This latest episode is a reminder that YouTube continues to struggle to police its own platform against the rules and policies it outlines in its terms of service.

Source: AFP Relax News, Oliver Darcy/CNN International

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