YouTube is banning comments on most videos of minors, after a group of pedophiles were discovered using the videos to share suggestive videos of underage children.
The Google-owned video giant lost advertisers this month over revelations that pedophiles used the site to upload non-explicit clips of minors, which could nonetheless interest predators. In the comments of videos on young girls in bathing suits or doing gymnastics, users would share links to timestamps of potentially suggestive moments in the clip, or sharing links to outright child pornography. YouTube’s recommendation algorithm automatically linked viewers to more videos in the same genre.
The scandal posed a problem for YouTube, since neither the videos nor most the comments broke rules against explicit content. Now YouTube says it’s banning comments on all videos of children, except on certain channels that can moderate their comment sections.
On Friday, YouTube announced that it had removed thousands of sexualized comments on videos of minors, and banned hundreds of users behind those comments. Since then, the company has simply been turning off comment sections on videos of children.
“Over the past week, we disabled comments from tens of millions of videos that could be subject to predatory behavior,” YouTube said in a Thursday blog post. “These efforts are focused on videos featuring young minors and we will continue to identify videos at risk over the next few months. Over the next few months, we will be broadening this action to suspend comments on videos featuring young minors and videos featuring older minors that could be at risk of attracting predatory behavior.”
Some channels featuring minors will be allowed to keep comments, the company said. Those channels “will be required to actively moderate their comments.”The company also said it was building a new tool for automatically spotting and deleting potentially predatory comments.
But the new policy might meet backlash from YouTube’s community of young creators, many of whom are under 18 and attempt to cultivate fan bases in their comments sections. It is unclear which YouTubers will fall under the “small number of creators” allowed to keep their comments section.
It is also unclear how YouTube will automatically identify videos of children. YouTube did not immediately return a request for comment.