SAN BRUNO, Calif. – YouTube promises to “aggressively crack down” on predatory comments left on videos featuring young children as it faces another boycott of a big-named advertisers amid allegations it has not done enough to fight pedophilia on the site.
The controversy stems from a report by U.K. publisher The Times which found predatory comments on videos showing children brushing their teeth, rolling around in bed, or doing the splits. The comments have led to brands including Lidl, Adidas, and Mars pulling ads that appear besides this content.
Google’s Ronan Harris acknowledged the seriousness of the latest crisis and said it would “aggressively crackdown” on any content or comments that could endanger children.
“I want to be clear, YouTube should never be a place for any form of activity that endangers others,” he said. “It is entirely unacceptable to us that any of our brands partners have their advertising shown against undesirable content and wholly unacceptable that that undesirable content might be shown to some of our users.”
Harris added that Google would have a “zero tolerance policy for predatory comments” and will be turning off all comments on videos where “these types of comments appear” and report any illegal behavior to the appropriate authorities.
He also promised “more improvements” over the coming weeks and that it would work with the advertising industry to ensure “the highest possible standards”.
While the video content was called “inappropriate” and “exploitive” in The Times report, it is legal and had been mostly posted by the children, according to The Drum. At issue is how the content can be easily exploited by pedophile networks that make predatory comments about the videos.
A Mars spokesman told The Guardian: “We are shocked and appalled to see that our adverts have appeared alongside such exploitative and inappropriate content.”
YouTube’s first brand safety controversy arose earlier this year after it was revealed that ads were appearing next to offensive content, such as videos supporting terrorism. That controversy, which also saw brands suspend spending on YouTube for a period of time, opened a discussion on responsibility in digital advertising that is ongoing today.