YouTube just can’t get a break, which is probably nothing new for it. As the world’s biggest Internet video service, YouTube carries a heavy burden in protecting its users, especially the wee ones. Sometimes it gets things right, like when it announced less harsh strikes on first-time offenders. Sometimes it gets things wrong, like when advertisers pull out over child abuse concerns. And sometimes it gets things terribly wrong, like when it lets in kids’ videos that apparently have been altered to include instructions on how to harm themselves with deadly results.
YouTube offers what is supposed to be safe havens for kids, both on its main website as well as its YouTube Kids app. After receiving no small amount of criticism over inappropriate content that escaped its filters, YouTube promised to apply more stringent screening of videos specifically aimed at kids. Apparently, those weren’t strong enough.
The Washington Post reports how a pediatrician and mother shockingly discovered that a seemingly innocent video of the popular Nintendo game Splatoon included a very short splice that gave instructions on how to commit suicide. This was hardly the only video with such harmful content and others have started popping up as well. YouTube has since removed said videos after they have been flagged.
Like almost anything at Google, YouTube uses “smart detection technology” to flag inappropriate content. It also relies on users flagging such content, which get reviewed 24/7. It raises the question, however, of how those videos got through in the first place. While a lapse may be possible on YouTube.com, YouTube Kids supposedly implements a stricter process in what gets into the app.
This issue is especially problematic because it’s not something that can simply be taken back or fixed by removing the offending videos. Even without shocking imagery, the messages imparted by these spliced videos could have a lasting effect that gets implanted in kids’ minds. YouTube will definitely have a lot to answer for once again and expect even more advertisers to announce their withdrawal from the platform.