YouTube Child Exploitation Controversy

YouTube Child Exploitation Controversy

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Updated Apr 09, 2018 at 05:05PM EDT by Matt.

Added Nov 27, 2017 at 04:00PM EST by Matt.

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YouTube Child Exploitation Controversy refers to the sudden closure of several YouTube accounts for posting videos of children in abusive and/or disturbing situations. YouTube has since announced that they will be implementing new tools to block such content from the site.


On November 17th, 2017, following reports of child exploitation, YouTube shut down the account Toy Freaks, which had more than 8.3 million subscribers, for violating the company's terms.[1] According to BuzzFeed,[2] the videos posted by Toy Freaks' account holder Greg Chism featured Chism's child daughters in dangerous, bizarre and upsetting situations, such as dressing them up like infants, having them spit up on each other, "wetting themselves" and screaming in fear.

In a written statement, YouTube said of the banning, "We’ve terminated the Toy Freaks channel for violation of our policies. We will be conducting a broader review of associated content in conjunction with expert trusted flaggers."


Greg Chism's Response

Following the banning, Chism gave a statement. He said:

“Many YouTube community members expressed similar concerns, and their willingness to reach out to protect my children and all children from exploitation reinforces my faith in the YouTube community. Victoria, Annabelle and I want to thank our supporters as my girls have had the opportunity to develop their creativity and self-confidence over the past few years. Their future is bright. While it is disturbing to me that anyone would find inappropriate pleasure in our video skits, I deeply appreciate YouTube’s concerns for my family and I could not be happier with having had this remarkable experience.”

BuzzFeed Report

The following week, BuzzFeed [3] reported that more accounts hosting similar content, which, like Toy Freaks, were not caught by YouTube's kids' filters, were garnering millions of views and subscribers. The videos, many of which appear to have originated in eastern Europe by accounts such as Mister Tisha and Lady Diana feature children being tied up with rope or tape and shoved into confined spaces, such as washing machines. Additionally, BuzzFeed reports, "The videos frequently include gross-out themes like injections, eating feces, or needles. Many come from YouTube 'verified' channels and have tens of millions of views. After BuzzFeed News brought these videos to the attention of YouTube, they were removed."

Russian Mister Tisha video of scary bird clown stuffing a kid into a washing machine Scary Video YouTube Child Exploitation Controversy - Lady Diana of kids bound around candles in a mock satanic ritual Video of a kid being scared by someone dressed as the joker

Some say that YouTube has been made aware of these issues but have been slow to make changes. Activist and producer Matan Uziel told BuzzFeed that he emailed YouTube's CEO Susan Wojcicki, three other Google employees and FBI agents about the videos on September 22nd, 2017, but the accounts remained active.

YouTube's Response

On Tuesday, November 21st, BuzzFeed released a statement. The said: "In the last week we terminated over 50 channels and have removed thousands of videos under these guidelines."

The following day, they released a blogpost[4] entitled "5 ways we’re toughening our approach to protect families on YouTube and YouTube Kids." These strategies included:

  • Tougher application of our Community Guidelines and faster enforcement through technology
  • Removing ads from inappropriate videos targeting families
  • Blocking inappropriate comments on videos featuring minors
  • Providing guidance for creators who make family-friendly content
  • Engaging and learning from experts

In addition, YouTube says that videos of this nature or videos that are attracting illicit or inappropriate comments will have the comments section shut off.

Advertisers' Response

Numerous companies who advertise on YouTube have suspended their advertisements until the problem is sorted. These companies include Mars, Adidas, Hewlett-Packard and Deutsche Bank.[5]

Media Coverage

Several news outlets reported on the controversy, including The Times,[6] Mashable,[7] BBC,[8] Fortune[9] and more.

Kids App Update

On April 6th, 2018, BuzzFeed[11] reported that YouTube would be releasing a new version of their Kids App, which would remove the algorithm for recommendations. Instead, the app would have a whitelist that would allow parents to designate what channels were appropriate for their children.

COPPA Complaint

On April 9th, 2018, more than 20 child, consumer, and privacy advocacy group has filed a complaint against the video-streaming giant, stating that they have been illegally collecting data from child users. According to CNN,[10] the complaint demands that YouTube change their policies regarding young viewers and pay up tens of billions of dollars in fines for this.

Led by the Center for Digital Democracy and Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, groups asked the the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate YouTube for potentially violating the Child Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). If found guilty, under COPPA, YouTube would be required to limit how they collect information and data from children under 13 and likely require an age-restriction and/or consent from a parent or guardian before the child could log on.

In the complaint, it is estimated that more than 23 million children have had their data “inappropriately collected” and requests that YouTube be fined up to $41,484 per violation.

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