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.
Over the final 12 months, many main advertisers have returned to the location after they had been reassured that YouTube had made progress in flagging and coping with problematic content material extra shortly.
The video highlighting the comments, posted by the YouTube creator Matt Watson (also known as MattsWhatItIs) and viewed 1.75 million times since it went up on Sunday, accused YouTube of “facilitating the sexual exploitation” of children. Mr. Watson said YouTube’s recommendation system also guided predators to other similar videos of minors — many of which carry advertisements for major brands.
Chi Hea Cho, a spokeswoman for YouTube’s parent company, Google, said it had deleted the accounts and channels of people leaving the disturbing comments, deleted comments that violate its policies and reported illegal activity to the authorities.
“Any content — including comments — that endangers minors is abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube,” said Mrs. Cho. “There’s more to be done, and we continue to work to improve and catch abuse more quickly.”
Many of the advertisers identified in the video and in a subsequent report by Wired — Epic Games, GNC and Nestlé’s companies in the United States — said they had suspended advertising on YouTube. Bloomberg News reported that the Walt Disney Company also halted ads but the company didn’t respond to requests for comment on Wednesday.
“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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