by Aaron Kesel, Activist Post:
YouTube has been caught in the crosshairs of another scandal, this time the platform is being accused by YouTuber Matt Watson of enabling a softcore pedophile ring in plain sight, Tech Crunch reported.
According to Watson’s Reddit post entitled “Youtube is facilitating sexual exploitation of minors”:
Over the past 48 hours, I have discovered a wormhole into a soft-core pedophilia ring on Youtube. Youtube’s recommended algorithm is facilitating pedophiles’ ability to connect with each-other, trade contact info, and link to actual child pornography in the comments. I can consistently get access to it from vanilla, never-before-used YouTube accounts via innocuous videos in less than ten minutes, in sometimes less than five clicks. I have made a twenty Youtube video showing the process, and where there is video evidence that these videos are being monetized by big brands like McDonald’s and Disney.
This is significant because Youtube’s recommendation system is the main factor in determining what kind of content shows up in a user’s feed. There is no direct information about how exactly the algorithm works, but in 2017 Youtube got caught in a controversy over something called “Elsagate,” where they committed to implementing algorithms and policies to help battle child abuse on the platform. There was some awareness of these soft core pedophile rings as well at the time, with Youtubers making videos about the problem.
I also have video evidence that some of the videos are being monetized. This is significant because Youtube got into very deep water two years ago over exploitative videos being monetized. This event was dubbed the “Ad-pocalypse.” In my video I show several examples of adverts from big name brands like Lysol and Glad being played before videos where people are time-stamping in the comment section. I have the raw footage of these adverts being played on inappropriate videos, as well as a separate evidence video I’m sending to news outlets.
It’s clear nothing has changed. If anything, it appears Youtube’s new algorithm is working in the pedophiles’ favour. Once you enter into the “wormhole,” the only content available in the recommended sidebar is more softcore sexually-implicit material. Again, this is all covered in my video.
One of the consistent behaviours in the comments of these videos is people time-stamping sections of the video when the kids are in compromising positions. These comments are often the most upvoted posts on the video. Knowing this, we can deduce that Youtube is aware these videos exist and that pedophiles are watching them. I say this because one of their implemented policies, as reported in a blog post in 2017 by Youtube’s vice president of product management Johanna Wright, is that “comments of this nature are abhorrent and we work … to report illegal behaviour to law enforcement. Starting this week we will begin taking an even more aggressive stance by turning off all comments on videos of minors where we see these types of comments.”1 However, in the wormhole I still see countless users time-stamping and sharing social media info. A fair number of the videos in the wormhole have their comments disabled, which means Youtube’s algorithm is detecting unusual behaviour. But that begs the question as to why Youtube, if it is detecting exploitative behaviour on a particular video, isn’t having the video manually reviewed by a human and deleting the video outright. Given the age of some of the girls in the videos, a significant number of them are pre-pubescent, which is a clear violation of Youtube’s minimum age policy of thirteen (and older in Europe and South America). I found one example of a video with a prepubescent girl who ends up topless midway through the video. The thumbnail is her without a shirt on. This a video on Youtube, not unlisted, and is openly available for anyone to see. I won’t provide screenshots or a link, because I don’t want to be implicated in some kind of wrongdoing.
I want this issue to be brought to the surface. I want Youtube to be held accountable for this. It makes me sick that this is happening, that Youtube isn’t being proactive in dealing with reports (I reported a channel and a user for child abuse, 60 hours later both are still online) and proactive with this issue in general. Youtube absolutely has the technology and the resources to be doing something about this. Instead of wasting resources auto-flagging videos where content creators “use inappropriate language” and cover “controversial issues and sensitive events” they should be detecting exploitative videos, deleting the content, and enforcing their established age restrictions. The fact that Youtubers were aware this was happening two years ago and it is still online leaves me speechless. I’m not interested in clout or views here, I just want it to be reported.
Watson also posted an in-depth video explaining how pedophiles are able to manipulate YouTube’s video recommendation algorithm to redirect a search for “bikini haul” videos, featuring adult women, to exploitative clips of children participating in sexually suggestive behavior — such as posing in front of mirrors and doing gymnastics and “yoga stretching.”
Then there are the innocuous videos with inappropriate comments from pedophiles, including some with timestamps capturing children in compromising positions. Absolutely horrific and sick to know this type of behavior goes on behind the scenes at YouTube and the company does nothing, yet it will delete and demonetize Activist Post or other news outlets on its platform.
Since then, several companies have responded to the now viral video and Reddit post by suspending advertising on the platform, including Nestlé, Epic, and reportedly Disney and McDonald’s.
Nestlé told CNBC that all of its companies in the U.S. have paused advertising on YouTube, while a spokesperson for Epic, maker of the massively popular game Fortnite, said it has suspended all pre-roll advertising. Other companies that confirmed publicly they are pausing YouTube advertising include Purina, GNC, Fairlife, Canada Goose, and Vitacost. Bloomberg and The Wall Street Journal report that Walt Disney Co. and McDonald’s have also pulled advertising on the video hosting website as well.