YouTube Has Kid Troubles Because Kids Are a Core Audience

WIRED | 6/6/2019 | Paris Martineau
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YouTube has a child exploitation problem. In February, the platform disabled comments on millions of videos including children 13 and younger after WIRED UK revealed that pedophiles had used the feature to identify videos featuring snippets of nude or sparsely clothed children. On Monday, the company faced new criticism after researchers from Harvard’s Berkman Klein Center said YouTube’s algorithm recommends suggestive videos featuring young children to users with viewing histories consistent with the profile of a child predator.

Paris Martineau covers platforms, online influence, and social media manipulation for WIRED.

YouTube - Troubles - Children - Content - Instances

But YouTube’s troubles with children, and the content created by and for them, extend far beyond these textbook instances of exploitation. In a way, YouTube’s problem is YouTube itself. Much of the platform rewards and amplifies exploitive actions by staking creators’ revenue and clout on a handful of metrics—such as view counts and ad impressions—that are easily gamed.

Among adults, this system contributes to what Data & Society researcher Rebecca Lewis calls an alternative influence network of inflammatory far-right YouTube creators, serves up polarizing recommendations that can inspire conspiracy theorists, and generates YouTube’s distinctly salacious genre of clickbait. This toxic brew is all the more dangerous for a more vulnerable (and difficult to measure) group of users: kids.

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YouTube claims that its core product “has never been for kids under 13.” Yet the recent investigations, and other data, show just how central young children have become to the site’s profitability and popularity, as both creators and viewers.

After Monday’s Berkman Klein report, critics called on YouTube to stop recommending any videos featuring children under 13. YouTube balked, instead publishing a blog touting past tweaks it has made in the name of child safety (e.g., minors can only live-stream when accompanied by an adult; content that comes close to violating its community guidelines can be excluded...
(Excerpt) Read more at: WIRED
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