Policy Move on YouTube Kids Hopes to Kill Inappropriate Child-targeted Content

Screenshot by Matt Elliott  CNET

Screenshot by Matt Elliott CNET

They appear to be part of the lucrative online world of ad revenue farming, but many parents have criticized YouTube for failing to keep these videos off of the YouTube Kids app...the app that is specifically meant to protect kids from potentially troublesome videos.

The Times report this week talked about "startling" videos featuring familiar characters from popular children's videos engaging in violent scenarios and carrying out disturbing tasks like drinking bleach or going to a strip club. Should that process confirm a video's inappropriate nature, the offending clip will be made unavailable to child users, will be stripped of monetization options, and will not show up on YouTube Kids. The genre, which we reported on in February of this year, makes use of popular characters from family-friendly entertainment, but it's often created with little care, and can quickly stray from innocent themes to scenes of violence or sexuality.

The YouTube Kids app is now available in 37 countries and has more than 11 million weekly active viewers, according to the Google-owned video platform.

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If the human moderator finds that the video isn't suitable for the YouTube Kids app, it will be age-restricted in the main YouTube app. Speaking to The Verge, YouTube said the change was in the pipeline before this controversy arose, and that it isn't a direct result of it. If the review finds the video is in violation of the new policy, it will be age restrictied, automatically blocking it from showing up in the Kids app.

"We're in the process of implementing a new policy that age-restricts this content in the YouTube main app when flagged", Juniper Downs, YouTube's director of policy, told the Verge.

Following revelations that YouTube is serving up to kids thousands of inappropriate and disturbing videos, the company said it will step up its efforts to prevent children from seeing such content.

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In tandem with YouTube's policy-review team, YouTube Kids relies in part on parents to identify content that shouldn't be in front of children. As for those using the main YouTube app, age-restricted content can not be viewed by anyone not logged into a YouTube account, anyone under the age of 18, or anyone with Restricted Mode turned on. It's also removing ads from this content. That means this new policy could put a squeeze on the booming business of crafting unusual kid's content. The app has been downloaded tens of millions of times. It says that the fraction of videos on YouTube Kids that were missed by its algorithmic filters and then flagged by users during the last 30 days amounted to just 0.005 percent of videos on the service.

In today's policy announcement, YouTube is acknowledging the problem, and promising to police it better. Maybe watch YouTube with your kids or have what they're watching in plain sight (say through a TV in the living room).

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