YouTube’s dark child exploitation secret
ABOUT 300 hours of video are uploaded to YouTube every minute and almost five billion videos are watched on the platform every single day.
But as you might expect, there is some strange, dark and depraved content among those videos - and YouTube has finally indicated it will work to purge a particularly nasty category from its website: child exploitation videos.
This strange and horrible sub genre of clips include thousands of videos of children being shoved in washing machines, being tied up, mock tortured and even knocked unconscious.
A number of the channels that feature such clips are also monetised, so you might even see a car commercial before a video of a clown tormenting a little girl. And some of these videos are on verified channels and have millions of views.
" [I] watched a video of a young girl duct taped to a wall and crying that had an Allstate Insurance pre-roll ad," Buzzfeed journalist Charlie Warzel wrote on Twitter after going down the rabbit hole.
The videos, which commonly feature young children in revealing clothing and vulnerable situations, often appear to originate from Eastern Europe, Buzzfeed reported.
Videos chronicle things like children being kidnapped, or being forced to "play doctor" with an adult.
And once you begin watching them, YouTube's algorithm recommends more questionable content.
After days of screening these awful videos this is what my personalized 'recommended' feed looks like this very minute (creepy little girl webcam vids): pic.twitter.com/s9fJ2wlwNA— Charlie Warzel (@cwarzel) November 22, 2017
As always: what's so troubling is YouTube's recommendation algorithm. As I screened these videos, YT kept feeding me more and more of them. Stuff like this: pic.twitter.com/ELVLJccP7E— Charlie Warzel (@cwarzel) November 22, 2017
YOUTUBE VOWS TO DO SOMETHING
After increased criticism and a growing number of articles about child exploitation videos (as well as other sub genres including videos where kids characters like princesses and Spiderman do depraved activities), YouTube has promised to focus on cleaning up the platform.
"In recent months, we've noticed a growing trend around content on YouTube that attempts to pass as family-friendly, but is clearly not," the company wrote in a blog post published Wednesday.
"While some of these videos may be suitable for adults, others are completely unacceptable, so we are working to remove them from YouTube."
The blog post made special mention of cracking down on child endangerment videos and inappropriate comments on videos featuring minors.
"We have always had strict policies against child endangerment, and we partner closely with regional authorities and experts to help us enforce these policies and report to law enforcement," Johanna Wright, YouTube's Vice President of Product Management wrote.
In the past week, YouTube says it has terminated over 50 channels and removed thousands of videos. The purging is part of a bigger effort to weed out exploitative content on the platform.
Last week the company took down the ToyFreaks account, a hugely popular account run by Greg Chism for videos that bordered on child abuse, according to Buzzfeed.
His YouTube channel posted videos of his daughters bathing while he threw frogs in the bath, screaming in fear, pretending to be babies, being force-fed, spitting up food, and even pretending to go to the bathroom.
The account had 8 million followers when it was finally shut down by YouTube. One video even racked up more that 30 million views in under a week.