By K.G ORPHANIDES, wired.co.uk, 23 March 2018
Children's search terms on YouTube are still awash with bizarre and sometimes disturbing bootleg content. Can anything be done to stem the tide?
|Video still of a reproduced version of Minnie Mouse, which|
appeared on the now-suspended Simple Fun channel.
Simple Fun / WIRED
The cartoon, Minnie Mouse Mommy Has Pregnancy Problem & Doctor Treats Episodes! Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck Cartoon, racked up over three million views in a single day. It could be viewed even with YouTube's family-friendly restricted mode enabled and existed, along with plenty of similarly distressing content, on Simple Fun, a channel that had been in operation since July 2017.
The channel has now been removed by YouTube "due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube's policy against spam, deceptive practices and misleading content or other Terms of Service violations."
WIRED found videos containing violence against child characters, age-inappropriate sexualisation, Paw Patrol characters attempting suicide and Peppa Pig being tricked into eating bacon. These were discovered by following recommendations in YouTube's sidebar or simply allowing children's videos to autoplay, starting with legitimate content.
"Recommendations are designed to optimize watch time, there is no reason that it shows content that is actually good for kids. It might sometimes, but if it does it is coincidence," says former YouTube engineer Guillaume Chaslot, who founded AlgoTransparency, a project that aims to highlight and explain the impact of algorithms in determining what we see online. "Working at YouTube on recommendations, I felt I was the bad guy in Pinocchio: showing kids a colourful and fun world, but actually turning them into donkeys to maximise revenue."
The videos WIRED found were reported to YouTube and were removed or restricted by the Google-owned company before the publication of this article. The company explained that it is increasing its efforts to control content that violates its terms and conditions.
Weird children's YouTube
YouTube is home to millions of hours of children's entertainment – part of the 400 hours of video uploaded to the service every minute – ranging from CBeebies and Disney to the incomprehensibly successful Little Baby Bum, a UK-based YouTube-native children's channel devoted to 3D animated songs and nursery rhymes for pre-schoolers in numerous languages.
Content for pre-school children, in particular, can be lucrative for ad-funded channels, as small children will readily watch and poke at whatever videos YouTube suggests, while harried parents are often unable to fully supervise every minute of their child's media consumption.