Programmatic Lunch

YouTube changes policies to clamp down on weird videos targeting kids

Tyrone Stewart

YouTube KidsYouTube has said it will be doing more to prevent children from seeing strange and disturbing videos aimed at them, following a New York Times report and a blog post on Medium highlighting the problem.

The Google-owned video sharing platform is going to implement changes that mean videos involving children’s characters that have been reported as being inappropriate will be age-restricted, as first reported by The Verge. This content will be automatically not allowed on YouTube Kids, and will require users to be logged in and 18 years or older to access on the main site.

The safety of children on YouTube Kids, which was introduced in 2015, is supposedly already assured by its filters, though many of these disturbing videos have slipped through the cracks.

Changes to these algorithmic filters will work to prevent any flagged content from seeping down into YouTube Kids. If content with a recognisable children’s character has been flagged on YouTube’s main app, it will be sent to YouTube’s policy review team, where thousands of staff in different time zones work to review flagged content. If this team finds it to be in violation of the new policy, it will be age-restricted and automatically blocked from the Kids app. The review team is set to begin training on the policy with it going live within the next few weeks.

As videos typically take a few days to make it to YouTube Kids from the normal YouTube site, the company is hoping that people flag content that is potentially disturbing for children within that time.

In addition to the policy review team, YouTube also has a team of volunteer moderators – which it calls Contributors – to look for inappropriate content.

YouTube is clearly making some sort of effort to prevent children from seeing disturbing content featuring their favourite characters. However, surely, it would better to create an algorithm that detects whenever a video with a popular children’s character is uploaded so each individual video can be reviewed. To limit the workload here, YouTube could whitelist certain channels that it knows only post legitimate children’s content. It’s always better to be proactive than reactive.

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