Published: Mon, November 13, 2017
Research | By Jennifer Evans

YouTube Creates Vetting Policy to Safeguard Children's Videos

YouTube Creates Vetting Policy to Safeguard Children's Videos

Videos are often tagged and named as shows similar to Peppa Pig, Mickey Mouse, Thomas The Tank Engine and feature some frightening imagery which - on the surface, at least - looks totally normal.

But some clearly out-of-bounds videos have slipped through the cracks - from a weird subgenre on YouTube using children's characters in freakish, violent or sexual situations.

A New York Times piece and a subsequent Medium post this week highlighted an ongoing problem with Youtube Kids - freakish and disturbing videos aimed at young children using key words and popular children's characters. While all content on YouTube Kids is meant to be suitable for children under the age of 13, some inappropriate videos using animations, cartoons, and child-focused keywords manage to get past YouTube's algorithms and in front of kids' eyes. They said that "inappropriate use of family entertainment characters" would be restricted to adult accounts, i.e. accounts belonging to users aged 18+ when they are reported by users. The new policy, which YouTube said has been formulating for a while and is not in direct response to recent reports, should be live within a few weeks.

It follows news in August of this year in which YouTube announced that it would no longer allow creators to monetize videos which 'made inappropriate use of family friendly characters.

Such content will now be age-restricted on the main YouTube app once reviewed and flagged on YouTube Kids. YouTube Kids, Google's standalone video platform for children, has additional protections that are supposed to filter out all restricted content. Google even added more protection features to the platform last week, but it appears that some inappropriate videos are still slipping through.

There is an inbuilt timer in YouTube Kids that will let parents limit the screen time by telling kids when it is time to stop watching videos on the app.

YouTube is serving up to kids thousands of disturbing videos, many from obscure producers, that are sprinkled in with kid-friendly ones from well-known studios, according to analysis in a recent Medium post and past reporting from the BBC.

But that work might be hard given the sheer number of such videos that can be found on YouTube. The app also lets parents block access to individual videos, disable search, and set usage time limits.

Many of these videos show millions of views each, though how many are authentic views versus bots is unclear.

YouTube quickly removed the clips, stating: 'Any that don't belong in the app are removed within hours'.

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