On February 17, a vlogger Matt Watson, known as MattsWhatItIs, made some shocking revelations on YouTube about the platform. In a 20 minute video, Matt showed how YouTube is enabling sexual exploitation of children and allowing predators to easily access videos of children which could be construed as sexually suggestive.
YouTube cracked down and removed millions of comments on children’s videos that pointed to other content related to child sexual abuse, and took down over 400 channels which were found to be posting such comments. Furthermore, these videos were monetised. When leading companies learned that their ad was featured before a video like this, they pulled out from the platform.
In a statement to various media houses, YouTube spokeswoman Andrea Faville, said, “We took immediate action by deleting accounts and channels, reporting illegal activity to authorities and disabling comments on tens of millions of videos that include minors. There’s more to be done, and we continue to work to improve and catch abuse more quickly,” she added.
What Matt’s video revealed
Matt described what he found as a ‘softcore paedophile ring’, and showed how easy it is to find such content.
He searched for videos of bikini try-on hauls, and then clicked on a recommended video, and that’s all it takes to get a recommendation of a video of a young girl. Once he clicked on that video, Matt's recommended videos section was filled with videos of minor girls. The videos appear innocent enough but are interpreted by predators in a perverse way.
Most of the videos are taken from another account, presumably one which posted them without such intent, and re-uploaded by users for sexual exploitation. In the comments of these videos, there are links to other listed and unlisted videos of children on YouTube along with timestamps where the child can be seen in sexually implicit positions, or where the child’s body parts are visible.
Further, those who encourage such content on YouTube, lure children with challenges such as “popsicle challenge”, “yoga challenge” and so on. The children attempt these, and once the videos are up on YouTube, they are open to exploitation by predators.
As per Matt’s video, YouTube knows that many people tend to leave inappropriate or predatory comments on videos featuring minors. For this reason, a previous policy of YouTube claimed to use “a combination of automated systems and human flagging to review and remove inappropriate sexual or predatory comments” from such videos.
Matt also points out that he is not the first person to report this – it has been reported by several people earlier, which one would find if they searched with the hashtag #YouTubeWakeUp on YouTube.
Watch Matt’s video here: