Philip DeFranco and Colleen Ballinger among YouTubers to speak out after a “paedophile ring” was discovered in the comments section of YouTube videos.
Matt Watson posted a 20-minute video to YouTube on 17 February where he uncovers a “wormhole into a soft-core paedophile ring” on YouTube.
The video, which has now amassed over 2.8 million views, shows Matt creating a new YouTube account and within a few minutes of searching finding himself “in the wormhole.”
As CTVNews details, the videos “typically feature young girls engaged in activities such as yoga, gymnastics or other day-to-day activities,” with comments like “beautiful goddess” and “beautiful video Barbie” being common.
On 19 February Philip DeFranco discussed the discovery in a video published to his YouTube channel.
He mentions that following the “Elsa-gate situation” in 2017, YouTube set up a system in November of that year to disable comments on inappropriate videos being shown on YouTube.
As Philip describes, this was an effort by YouTube to actively “combat this content and these comments.” In the video, Philip and his team create a new YouTube account of their own to discover if it is “actually as easy to find this content as Matt claims.”
Philip says that this brings up the question: “can YouTube actually fully sanitise the site in all ways?”
MY 5 YEAR OLD SON: does gymnastics and is a happy, sweet, confident boy.
youtube: NOT ADVERTISER FRIENDLY
— Jessica Ballinger 💜 (@BallingerMom) February 21, 2019
YouTube responded by retweeting a tweet from Philip DeFranco and explaining the action was part of an effort to “better protect the YouTube community from content that endangers minors.”
(1/2) Hi there–for reference, over the past few days, we’ve taken a number of actions to better protect the YouTube community from content that endangers minors. Here is a tweet from @PhillyD for more context: https://t.co/pywO8uBfpL
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) February 22, 2019
Jessica’s sister Colleen Ballinger also commented that this is an issue which “doesn’t just affect family vloggers who are featuring their children doing gymnastics.”
Here’s the issue. This doesn’t just affect family vloggers who are featuring their children doing gymnastics. All of the comments on my vlog channel were just disabled and I am not a family vlogging channel. 90% of my vlogs are just of me. This affects all YouTube creators! https://t.co/4v5OHFyiY2
— Colleen Ballinger🎗 (@ColleenB123) February 23, 2019
Colleen later added a follow-up tweet.
So now YouTube can punish creators by disabling the comment section & demonetizing videos if the comments aren’t ad friendly? if this is true, every youtuber needs to start looking for a new job. There are hardly any videos on youtube that lack vile comments. how is this fair? https://t.co/qOgWkwQ8Q6
— Colleen Ballinger🎗 (@ColleenB123) February 22, 2019
Advertisers also swiftly responded to the initial video, with companies like Disney and Nestle “pausing” advertising on YouTube.
YouTube published an official blog post on 23 February with a full response: “While the creators of these videos may have done nothing wrong, we’re going above and beyond our existing protections in the near term on content that may include or endanger minors.”
Update on 28 February: YouTube followed up their first blog post with an update on the total list of changes since their 23 February article. Comments on tens of millions of videos featuring young minors have been disabled and there are efforts underway to more effectively classify and remove predatory comments. Full details are available in the post.
Read about how YouTube has announced reforms to its strike system. Alternatively, learn about Giovanna Fletcher to Hike the Himalayas for CoppaFeel.