YouTube has deleted over 400 channels and disabled comments on "tens of millions of videos" in its latest effort to purge the video-sharing platform of child exploitation.
YouTube's Creators account detailed actions it had taken "in the last 48 hours" in a comment left on a video recently posted by YouTuber Philip DeFranco. YouTube wrote that it was "working incredibly hard to root out horrible behaviour," but that there was "more to be done" in keeping people safe on the platform.
UPDATE: @YouTube @YTCreators left a comment and provided an update on what theyâ€™ve done to combat horrible people on the site in the last 48 hours.
TLDR: Disabled comments on tens of millions of videos. Terminated over 400 channels. Reported illegal comments to law enforcement. pic.twitter.com/zFHFfkX9FD — Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) February 21, 2019
The platform's latest actions come on the heels of backlash from advertisers and creators after YouTuber Matt Watson released a video detailing numerous examples of child exploitation he found on the platform.
In the 20-minute video, Watson brought users down a "wormhole" on YouTube exposing a "soft-core paedophile ring," in which users flood videos of children with predatory comments. He showed that examples of these instances could be found in just a few clicks on suggested videos after searching for something like "bikini haul".
In these comment sections on videos, users trade contact information and links to child porn, Watson says. Watson shows that users sometimes engage in a practice he calls "timestamping," where viewers comment with a specific video timestamp that "points in the video where the little girls are in compromising positions".
"This is f-----g disgusting. This is just wrong," Watson says in his video. "People know about this, and yet not a damn thing is being done about it."
While YouTube never directly responded to Watson's highly critical takedown, it did choose to respond Wednesday to DeFranco's video where he defended YouTube for "consistently fighting" the issue of child exploitation. In its response, YouTube thanked DeFranco for "raising awareness of this" and "realis[ing] all of us at YouTube are working incredibly hard".
It took YouTube until Wednesday to respond to Watson's Feb. 17 video, but major brands who advertise on the platform didn't wait as long. Since Watson pointed out that YouTube was monetising these exploited videos with ads, companies including Disney, Nestlé, and Fortnite-developer Epic Games pulled ads from the platform.
This is far from the first time that YouTube has come under attack for its failings when it comes to fighting child exploitation on its platform. A report from the Times of London in December found that YouTube was failing to remove flagged instances of child exploitation on livestreaming videos in a timely matter.
Back in 2017, YouTube blogged about "toughening our approach" to videos showing child endangerment. The post said YouTube would be taking a "more aggressive stance" by blocking ads and inappropriate comments on videos of children. However, Watson's video found multiple videos where ads or inappropriate comments appeared.
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