Investigations have found reams of weird videos depicting children's characters in morbid situations appearing on YouTube and on its children-only app, YouTube Kids. The new rule covers any inappropriate usage of family-friendly characters, meaning that freaky videos meant to reel in kids on the brand power of well-known characters can be excluded from the app even if they don't have any content that would otherwise be considered inappropriate.
After a pair of articles revealed the presence of insidious videos within the community of children's content on YouTube, the video platform is promising additional strides to protect its youngest users. The videos, featuring the likes of the PAW Patrol or Peppa Pig, are creepy and unusual would very likely be disturbing or even traumatizing to kids who watch them.
Today it's taking another step to try and police this genre.
Since YouTube Kids launched in February 2015, the algorithimically-driven app has been criticized for lacking controls to restrict kid-unfriendly videos, as well as allowing commercially-oriented content targeted at kids.
Age-restricted videos are barred from appearing on YouTube Kids, and other flagged videos will be reviewed. An algorithmic filter will first scan for inappropriate content.
Along with filtering content out of the Kids app, the new policy will also tweak who can see these videos on YouTube's main service. YouTube also has a team of volunteer moderators, which it calls Contributors, looking for inappropriate content.YouTube says it will start training its review team on the new policy and it should be live within a few weeks. As for those using the main YouTube app, age-restricted content can not be viewed by anyone not logged into a YouTube account, anyone under the age of 18, or anyone with Restricted Mode turned on.
YouTube is trying to walk a fine line between owning up to this problem and arguing that the issue is relatively minor.
The move to restrict access to the flagged videos was not a direct response to the recent press reports but has been in the works for some time, YouTube told The Verge. (We won't even link to them because ugh, why give them more views.) Think Spider-Man squeezing large water balloons until they explode in slow motion while he sits in an empty bathtub (seen by an Australian dad and his 3-year-old) or Peppa Pig parodies that have her getting tortured at the dentist or drinking bleach. Because both the content on YouTube Kids and the process for weeding out inappropriate content are based on algorithms and keywords, there's a way to game both of those systems in order to ingratiate questionable, inappropriate, or even straight-up harmful content into YouTube Kids.