YouTube disabling comments on videos featuring children

Muriel Colon
March 2, 2019

It said that it has already disabled comments on "tens of millions of videos" and over the next few months it will "suspend comments on videos featuring young minors and videos featuring older minors that could be at risk of attracting predatory behaviour".

YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki tweeted Thursday, "Nothing is more important to us than ensuring the safety of young people on the platform".

It will take YouTube several months to disable comments on all videos featuring minors, the company said.

The new classifier does not affect the monetization of user's videos. Epic said at the time that it had reached out to YouTube and parent company Google to determine what actions the tech company would take to eliminate that type of abusive content. "Ticking a box to say they are over thirteen is simply not an approach that scales, when every day, 170,000 new children are going online", he said, citing a statistic from UNICEF.

YouTube has announced that it is disabling comments on videos that feature minors. But the comments posted below the videos became overrun with suggestive remarks directed at the children.

He also instructed the Department of Internal Affairs to investigate the issue and "get a better understanding of YouTube's response to the issue".

Shortly thereafter, YouTube deleted many comments and blocked some accounts and channels showing inappropriate comments.

This move comes off a number of worldwide reports exposing paedophilic content contained within the comments of videos that are targeted at minors.

YouTube has used AI software to classify videos and identify specific content, but the system has had mixed results, including recommending conspiracy theories and other questionable information.

The revelations quickly triggered a sharp backlash among major brands that advertise on YouTube, including Nestlé and Disney, which suspended their ad spending on the site.

Even though YouTube said it's turning off comments for most videos featuring children, the company will keep comments enabled for a small number of creators who are minors. But first-time vlogging parents will likely be unable to use the comments section to grow a following.

In YouTube's Community Guidelines Enforcement Report in December, the company reported removing 7.8 million videos and 1.6 million channels in the third quarter of 2018, with 13 percent of the channel removals being for inappropriate adult content or for endangering child safety in some way.

CBC reports that a children's cartoon video was found to have a suicide-related sequence hidden at around the five minute mark - in other words, deliberately buried so as to be inconspicuous.

What else is YouTube doing to protect children?

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