YouTube tightens rules to keep sexual predators away from minors
San Francisco: In the face of allegations that YouTube is being used by paedophiles to target minors, the Google-owned video streaming platform said it is now disabling comments on videos featuring minors that could be at risk of attracting predatory behaviour.
Due to the on-going paedophilia content controversy on YouTube, several international companies including Disney, Nestle and Fortnite maker Epic Games pulled out their advertisements from the platform this week.
Many users also alleged that YouTube was being careless with monitoring content on its app.
YouTube, however, claimed that it has been terminating accounts and channels over the past few weeks that have violated the platform's policies.
"No form of content that endangers minors is acceptable on YouTube, which is why we have terminated certain channels that attempt to endanger children in any way," YouTube said in a blog post on Thursday.
"Over the past week, we disabled comments from tens of millions of videos that could be subject to predatory behaviour," YouTube said, adding that over the next few months, it will be broadening this action to suspend comments on videos featuring young minors.
But the platform is not introducing a blanket ban on comments for all videos featuring minors.
"A small number of creators will be able to keep comments enabled on these types of videos. These channels will be required to actively moderate their comments, beyond just using our moderation tools and demonstrate a low risk of predatory behaviour. We will work with them directly," the company wrote.
YouTube said it has a new comments classifier in place that is more sweeping in scope, and will detect and remove two times more individual comments.
A study by the Human Trafficking and Social Justice Institute of the University of Toledo in Ohio, US recently showed that human traffickers are exploiting social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram or SnapChat, as well as dating apps such as Tinder, Blendr and Yellow to hunt for potential underage victims.
Traffickers educate themselves by studying what the victim posts on these sites to build trust.
The study, which was requested by the Ohio Attorney General's Human Trafficking Commission, revealed how traffickers quickly target and connect with vulnerable children on the Internet through social media.
Grooming children for sex trafficking consists of convincing someone to send a risky picture and then using it to extort them.
The traffickers use fear of repercussions as a way to compel the youth to move from a monitored page to a less monitored page by saying, "You don't want your parents to find out what we're talking about", the study suggested.
With a global user-base of over 1.3 billion people, every eight out of ten 18-49 years old people watch YouTube. With the penetration of Internet and smartphones, users below 18 years of age today are also heavily exposed to the platform.