YouTube is warning its creators that “inappropriate comments” left on their videos may lead to them losing advertising revenue.
The move comes as the Google-owned site is grappling with the fallout from a viral video that showed pedophiles were using its comment sections to trade contact information and child pornography. Major advertisers, including Disney and AT&T, have suspended business with YouTube since Wednesday.
When asked by YouTuber Jessica Ballinger — who routinely posts videos of her young children for her 84,000 subscribers — why clips of her 5-year-old doing gymnastics were demonetized on Thursday, the company said it was part of its efforts to “protect the YouTube community from content that endangers minors.”
“With regard to the actions that we’ve taken, even if your video is suitable for advertisers, inappropriate comments could result in your video receiving limited or no ads (yellow icon),” YouTube explained on Twitter.
On Thursday morning, a YouTube spokesperson told TheWrap that the company had deleted hundreds of channels and thousands of comments tied to child exploitation. YouTube also disabled comments on tens of millions of video featuring minors.
(2/2) With regard to the actions that we've taken, even if your video is suitable for advertisers, inappropriate comments could result in your video receiving limited or no ads (yellow icon). Let us know if you have any questions.
— TeamYouTube (@TeamYouTube) February 22, 2019
In a follow-up tweet, Ballinger said the decision to strip advertising from videos because of predatory comments “makes NO SENSE” — effectively punishing the content creator for the sins of their commenters.
YouTube’s demonetization plan comes a few days after YouTuber Matt Watson posted a video highlighting the site’s “soft-core pedophilia ring.”
In his video, Watson showed how pedophiles were flooding the comment section of YouTube clips that featured young girls. The commenters routinely timestamped moments in the otherwise innocuous videos where the girls were in sexually suggestive positions. Watson said the pedophiles were using the comment section to 1) trade social media contact information 2) share links to child porn and 3) swap unlisted videos on YouTube.
Watson also highlighted that, after only watching a few videos featuring young girls, YouTube’s recommendation algorithm began to strictly suggest more videos of underage girls on the right side of the screen.
“Once you enter into this wormhole, for whatever reason, YouTube’s algorithm is glitching out to a point where nothing but these videos exist,” Watson said. “This facilitates the pedophile’s ability to find this content but more importantly… trade social media contacts.”
Several companies, including Epic Games, GNC, Hasbro, have joined Disney and AT&T in pulling advertising from YouTube after the issue came to light.
YouTube did not immediately respond to TheWrap asking if there are measures creators can take to avoid having their videos demonetized, like temporarily disabling their comments section.