YouTube bans comments on videos of young children in bid to block predators

Paedophiles shown to be using comments on videos of children to guide other predators

YouTube will disable comments on most videos that include children 13 and younger after coming under fire for failing to keep paedophiles from posting suggestive remarks on such videos, the company said Thursday. YouTube, which is owned by Google, said in a blog post that over the next few months, it would suspend comments on videos of young minors – those 13 and younger – and older teenagers that may risk "attracting predatory behaviour". The move is a response to the latest content-related crisis to confront YouTube: a video documenting how paedophiles have used comments on videos of children to guide other predators. After the video highlighting the practice went viral, several companies whose advertisements had appeared in the videos at issue said they would boycott YouTube.

In general, the videos did not violate YouTube’s standards and showed mostly innocent behaviour like young girls doing gymnastics or playing Twister. But the comments posted below the videos became overrun with suggestive remarks directed at the children.

YouTube said last week that it had disabled comments on tens of millions of videos featuring children under 13. The company said it planned to alter its algorithm over the next several months to create a blanket policy. “Recently, there have been some deeply concerning incidents regarding child safety on YouTube,” Susan Wojcicki, company’s chief executive, wrote in a post on Twitter announcing the move. “Nothing is more important to us than ensuring the safety of young people on the platform.”

The company said it would make an exception for a small number of channels on the site that feature content considered to be at less risk for attracting paedophiles, such as toy-review videos; the channels will be required to actively moderate comments.


YouTube said it would use a new machine-learning system to identify and remove predators’ comments. The company, which has said it removes hundreds of millions of comments from videos every quarter for violating its rules, estimated that the new approach would double the number of comments flagged for removal.

YouTube has struggled to keep up with paedophiles’ sometimes subtle methods for leaving suggestive remarks on videos of children. Rather than making flagrantly sexual statements, commenters have posted time stamps directing others to moments in videos that can appear compromising when paused, like a girl’s backside or bare legs. In some instances, the commenters in question simply posted strings of sexually suggestive emojis. – New York Times