YouTube has deleted hundreds of channels and purged thousands of comments after a viral video revealed that the Google-owned site was being used by pedophiles to trade contact information and videos, the company told TheWrap on Thursday.
The move comes a few days after YouTuber Matt Watson posted a video highlighting YouTube’s “soft-core pedophilia ring.” The video had more than 2 million views as of Thursday morning.
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.”
Beyond deleting certain channels and comments tied to child exploitation, a YouTube spokesperson told TheWrap the site has disabled comments on tens of millions of videos featuring minors. YouTube is also working with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to report illegal comments to law enforcement, the spokesperson added.
“Any content — including comments — that endangers minors is abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube,” the spokesperson told TheWrap. “There’s more to be done, and we continue to work to improve and catch abuse more quickly.”
YouTube’s decision comes after several major advertisers, including Nestle and Disney, suspended advertising on the site; ads for the two companies were shown by Watson’s video to be running on clips that were attracting predatory comments. The boycotts were first reported by Bloomberg on Wednesday. Epic Games and GNC have also suspended advertising on YouTube, The New York Times reported Wednesday evening.
The boycotts come after YouTube has spent much of the last year working to become more advertiser-friendly, including a move to reduce the number of conspiracy videos recommended by its algorithm. AT&T, which had recently returned to marketing on YouTube following a two year absence, once again pulled its advertising on Thursday, according to Reuters.