In a move to help protect children's safety online, YouTube will disable comments on videos featuring minors, the company announced Thursday. The effort comes a week after Wired reported that some YouTube users have been making sexually suggestive and inappropriate comments on videos featuring minors.
On Feb. 20, Wired revealed a disturbing trend reportedly taking place on YouTube via the platform's commenting feature. The report detailed how some users have taken to the comments section of videos featuring minors to share timestamps "for parts of the videos where exposed genitals can be seen, or when a child does the splits or lifts up their top to show their nipples." As the report noted, some of these minors appeared to be as young as 5.
In addition to the timestamp issue, many of these videos have reportedly been subjected to sexually appropriate comments. In response to the safety concerns, some companies pulled their advertisements from the platform, according to CNBC. "Until Google can protect our brand from offensive content of any kind, we are removing all advertising from YouTube," AT&T told USA TODAY in a statement.
YouTube did not immediately respond to Romper’s request for comment regarding the reports, but the company issued a statement on Thursday addressing these issues by announcing it will be disabling comments on videos featuring minors and launching a new comments classifier. Furthermore, it will take action against creators "who cause egregious harm to the community," according to a blog post by YouTube.
Regarding the disabled comments, YouTube stated:
Over the past week, we disabled comments from tens of millions of videos that could be subject to predatory behavior. These efforts are focused on videos featuring young minors and we will continue to identify videos at risk over the next few months. Over the next few months, we will be broadening this action to suspend comments on videos featuring young minors and videos featuring older minors that could be at risk of attracting predatory behavior.
The platform will also work with users "directly" as it works on its "goal" to "catch" violative comments. As for the new comments classifier, the tool will help "identify and remove predatory comments."
"This classifier does not affect the monetization of your video. We accelerated its launch and now have a new comments classifier in place that is more sweeping in scope, and will detect and remove 2X more individual comments," the company explained.
Lastly, YouTube said it will "terminate channels that attempt to endanger children in any way."
While some vloggers are upset about the disabled comments (a few users claim their video comments were disabled, despite featuring no kids), it's an important change.
YouTuber Matt Watson touched on this sentiment in a Feb. 17 video outlining the platform's alleged problems with pedophilia. "Pedophiles are trading social media contacts; they’re trading links to actual child porn in YouTube comments; they’re trading unlisted videos in secret, and YouTube’s algorithm through some glitch in its programming is facilitating their ability to do this," Watson claimed, according to The Guardian.
If you want to help YouTube's latest efforts, the platform encourages users to flag potentially harmful accounts. And if you have any other concerns regarding these changes, don't hesitate to reach out to the company directly.