Advertisers Boycott YouTube After Pedophiles Swarm Comments on Videos of Children

SAN FRANCISCO — Nestlé, Epic Games and different main manufacturers mentioned on Wednesday that that they had stopped shopping for commercials on YouTube after their adverts appeared on youngsters’s movies the place pedophiles had infiltrated the remark sections.

The firms acted after a YouTube consumer posted a video this week to level out this conduct. For probably the most half, the movies focused by pedophiles didn’t violate YouTube’s guidelines and had been harmless sufficient — younger ladies doing gymnastics, taking part in Twister or stretching — however the movies turned overrun with suggestive remarks directed on the youngsters.

The commenters left time stamps for components of the video that may seem compromising when paused — like a lady’s bottom or naked legs. They additionally posted remarks that praised the ladies, requested whether or not they had been carrying underwear, or just carried a string of sexually suggestive emojis.

About two years in the past, a whole lot of firms pulled cash from YouTube over considerations about adverts exhibiting up subsequent to problematic content material from terror or hate teams and movies that appeared to hazard or exploit youngsters.

“When we learned of this issue, we were — and still are — absolutely horrified and reached out to YouTube to rectify this immediately,” Senka Hadzimuratovic, a spokeswoman for the online grammar tool Grammarly, said in an email. “We have a strict policy against advertising alongside harmful or offensive content and would never knowingly associate ourselves with channels like this. It goes against everything our company stands for.”

In response to the latest concerns, Mrs. Cho said, YouTube disabled comments on tens of millions of videos featuring minors and removed thousands of inappropriate comments on videos with young people in them. She said YouTube had also terminated over 400 YouTube channels for comments that they left on videos and reported illegal comments to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

YouTube has struggled to police children’s content. In late 2017, The New York Times found that disturbing content was showing up in YouTube’s children’s app, which is meant for users under 13. Videos depicted the deaths of beloved cartoon characters and real children in distressing situations.

There have been earlier reports of pedophiles cruising YouTube for videos of minors and leaving lewd or sexual comments. In response, YouTube said in 2017 that it would do more to “protect families” on its platform, pledging to remove videos that endanger children and block inappropriate comments on content featuring minors.

“There are some real questions at this point on whether YouTube is just too big to provide a safe place for children,” said Josh Golin, executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

“If you can’t keep pedophiles from trading information in your comment sections of your videos then you shouldn’t have comment sections of your videos,” Mr. Golin said. “It’s a legitimate question to ask — what are the value of YouTube comments, besides to Google’s bottom line, that’s worth the horribleness that occurs there?”

While YouTube has said it deletes hundreds of millions of comments every quarter that violate its guidelines, the lewd remarks on otherwise innocent videos were not flagged.

Mr. Watson, the maker of the original video, has come under fire from some fellow YouTube users, who have accused him of starting another “adpocalypse” — what many video creators called the plunge in ad revenue from the boycott in 2017 — by shedding light on the issue.

Those critics have said in separate videos online that Mr. Watson should have reported the alleged pedophiles through YouTube’s own tools, rather than draw media and advertiser attention to the matter and risk costing them revenue.

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