The issue was highlighted by a YouTube user named Matt Watson, who had posted a video showing a "wormhole into a soft-core pedophilia ring on YouTube". The footage explains how any new user can access disturbing videos targeting young children only in two clicks while searching for something completely unrelated – such as, in his case, "bikini haul" – vlogs of women showcasing newly bought bikinis. After watching a couple of videos of this subgenre, a video featuring a young girl appears in the "recommended" thread – and if users click on it, the whole "recommended" section fills with videos featuring minors.
Watson's video went instantly viral, hitting nearly 2,000,000 views in three days. The relevant post on Reddit has also gained attention and got hundreds of comments. YouTube, in turn, has responded to the issue by deleting accounts and channels, disabling comments on videos with children, as well as reporting predatory comments to authorities. Recently, the US-based social media giant blocked comments from tens of millions of videos it determined could attract predators.
Sputnik discussed the issue with Fahad Malik, writer, digital strategist, and branding and communications consultant.
Fahad Malik: Disabling comments on videos is a very good step, as Youtube is a video community, that's accessible to children of every age. We all have seen predatory comments videos of minors who are playing or reading or doing something, though the videos aren’t pornographic in nature, the comment sections are full of people talking about sexualizing specific scenes.
Safer communities have always been a priority of Google as well as Youtube, so disabling comments is a good solution, but Youtube needs to monitor such accounts, and if someone is repeating such behavior, Youtube should consider disabling their accounts.
Sputnik: The disabled comment section will nonetheless deprive people with no ill-intent to comment on videos. What implications could it have on the service itself? Could it drive away its audiences?
Fahad Malik: Yes, that's correct. Youtube is not just about producing content and publishing it, its about interacting with your audience, taking their feedbacks, its about the two-way communication and community building aspects behind it.
Disabling comment sections will definitely have an impact on reach and audience.
Fahad Malik: Youtube has not failed to tackle this problem and other similar ones. YouTube has made it easier to weed out irrelevant, inappropriate, or offensive comments so you can spend time engaging with the people who matter most.
This already filters out possibility of filthy comments with specific keywords. Blocking comments completely is a new feature, and things evolve with time every where.
Sputnik: As a digital media expert, what solution could you propose to make YouTube more kid-friendly and less inappropriate in terms of its content?
Youtube, i believe has already been doing to make its space child friendly and safe for minors. There is always room for improvement, and disabling comments for sensitive videos is already an appreciable step.
Views and opinions expressed in this article are those of Fahad Malik and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.