YouTube turns off comments on videos of children amid child safety fears

YouTube has announced that they will be disabling comments on all videos that contain young children and some older minors.

It comes after the US vlogger Matt Watson, who runs the channel MattsWhatItIs, stated that he had discovered a pedophile ring in the comments sections of several videos involving children. Watson has stated that pedophiles were posting links to child pornography and sharing contact details in the comments section of videos of young girls doing exercises, gymnastics and dancing, and were even posting time stamps of when underwear became visible.

YouTube has suspended comments on tens of millions of videos that are likely to be ‘at risk of attracting predatory behaviour’. The video-sharing platform has said they are focusing on the launch of an AI moderator that is ‘more sweeping in scope, and will detect and remove two times more individual comments’. However, YouTube’s current algorithm was found to be recommending videos of a similar nature, so the new AI moderator is much needed. YouTube have also stated that they will ‘suspend comments on videos featuring young minors and videos featuring older minors that could be at risk of attracting predatory behaviour’, but added that ‘a small number of creators’ will be able to keep the comments section open but would need to show that they were at ‘low risk of predatory behaviour’.

This discovery has led to an advertiser boycott of the platform, with companies such as Epic Games and Nestlé removing their ads from the site. In 2017, Mars and Adidas withdrew advertising from the site after campaigners warned them that pedophiles had been targeting videos of children. The NSPCC has come forward and stated that ‘keeping children safe cannot be left to social networks’ after figures revealed that, in 18 months, there have been 5,161 reports of sexual communications with a child.

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Katie Tsappas

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May 2022
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