YouTube, scrambling to respond to its latest brand-safety crisis involving videos with children that drew sexually inappropriate comments, says it has taken focused action to address the problem.
In the past week, YouTube said, it has removed more than 150,000 videos featuring children that had been targeted by pedophiles in the comments section, and also disabled comments for over 625,000 videos. In addition, YouTube terminated the accounts of several hundred YouTube users who had posted “predatory comments on videos featuring minors,” the Google-owned video platform said in a statement Monday.
YouTube also in the last week has removed ads from nearly 2 million videos and over 50,000 channels that were “masquerading as family-friendly content,” according to a rep.
For YouTube, the PR crisis over child safety on the internet-video site has become a business issue — with several large advertisers pulling ads after the trend of sex predators commenting on kid videos came to light.
Marketers that have frozen spending on YouTube over the issue include Adidas, Deutsche Bank, HP, Mars, Diageo and Cadbury. That came after a report by the Times of London finding that their ads had run in videos of young girls that included a number of disturbing sexual comments by users.
HP, for one, said in a statement Monday to Variety that it immediately suspended all advertising worldwide on YouTube when it learned that one of its ads “was placed in a terrible and inappropriate context.”
“HP has strict brand safety protocols in place across all online advertising, including YouTube and this appears to be the result of a content misclassification by Google,” a rep for the tech company said.
YouTube is still dealing with the aftershocks of a global advertiser backlash this spring, after ads were discovered running in front of hate-speech and terrorism videos. Some big advertisers, including AT&T, have not run any ads on YouTube since March.
“Marketers have spent millions of dollars over many decades to build brand equity and loyalty,” said Association of National Advertisers CEO Bob Liodice, a U.S. trade group representing more than 1,000 companies. “To have that equity destroyed or degraded by sub-optimum controls by any media vendor, ad-tech supplier or publisher is totally unacceptable to the ANA and its members.”
Meanwhile, YouTube on Monday was working to fix another disturbing development: YouTube searches that began with “how to have” returned autocomplete results “how to have s*x with your kids” and “how to have s*x kids,” according to a report by BuzzFeed News. (Those autocomplete terms appeared to have been removed by Tuesday morning.) The bizarre search results may have been the work of trolls who successfully gamed the YouTube search algorithm to make the phrases appear at the top of the autocomplete list, the BuzzFeed report speculated.
More broadly, YouTube has said it’s stepped up enforcement of policies to block, restrict or demonetize videos featuring kid-oriented themes and characters but that include violent, sexual or otherwise inappropriate themes. YouTube said it recently terminated more than 50 channels, including the popular Toy Freaks channel, and removed thousands of videos that violated its policies for child-friendly content.