YouTube is switching off user comments on most videos featuring children to “better protect children and families.”
It has opted to take what the NSPCC has described as an “important step” after losing several big advertisers when it was revealed that paedophiles were leaving predatory and explicit comments on videos of children.
YouTube’s first step was to disable the comments function on any videos that attracted such comments, but it has now confirmed that its new policy will be to disable comments on almost all videos of minors by default.
It was revealed back in 2017 that, in addition to leaving obscene or explicit comments on videos of children, paedophiles were also using the comments facility to flag content for other paedophiles.
YouTube said it was “working urgently” to address the issue and improve safety but, following the discovery of further predatory activity, brands including AT&T, Nestle and Hasbro acted in February of this year to remove their ads from the site.
The move means that any video featuring very young children, such as clips of toddlers uploaded by parents or short films featuring children by bigger YouTube stars, will automatically have the comments section disabled. Videos featuring older children and teenagers under the age of 18 will not have the comments disabled as standard, but this move will be taken where a video is likely to attract predatory attention.
Millions of hours of footage are uploaded to YouTube every day, but the platform says it will use algorithms to detect videos that contain children.
YouTube has advised that a minority of content creators, such as trusted family video-bloggers or established YouTube stars, may be allowed to enable comments on videos that feature children, but they will be required to actively moderate these comments. They will also need to demonstrate that their videos have a low risk of attracting predatory attention.
It says it has developed a system which is better able to identify and remove predatory comments.
Several channels deemed to be “endangering” children have also been terminated by YouTube. This cull included channels that were inserting shocking content into the middle of children’s cartoons.
Commenting on Twitter, YouTube’s Chief Executive, Susan Wojcicki, said: “Nothing is more important to us than ensuring the safety of young people on the platform.”
Some content creators, however, have expressed concern about the suppression of comments. They rely on comments left by fans to help boost the profile of their videos on the site and help them to grow their channels.
YouTube’s algorithm will continue to consider comments when recommending videos to users despite the new policy.
They explained in a statement: “We understand that comments are an important way creators build and connect with their audiences. We also know that this is the right thing to do to protect the YouTube community.”
Andy Burrows from national children’s charity NSPCC said the move was an “important step” and added: “We know that offenders are twisting YouTube videos for their own sexual gratification, using them to contact other predators and using the comments section as shop window to child abuse image sites.”
First Response Training (FRT) is a leading national training provider. They deliver a wide range of high quality training courses to over 70,000 learners annually, working with thousands of organisations and businesses across all sectors.
Their diverse portfolio includes training in the fields of health and safety, first aid, fire safety, food hygiene, health and social care, early years and schools and other special focus topics.
They work with thousands of schools, colleges and universities as well as pre-schools, nurseries, childcare providers and children’s centres to provide specialist training for those who work with children and young people.
A trainer from FRT, says: “For a long time now, safeguarding children has been about much more than protecting them in the physical world – their digital lives need safeguarding too. We need laws that ensure this.
“We welcome the step that YouTube has taken to better protect the children using its platform and we hope that further steps can be taken across all social media platforms to offer young people greater protection from abuse.”
For more information on the training services that FRT can provide, please call them today on freephone 0800 310 2300, or send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.