YouTube to Clampdown on Odd Children Videos

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Earlier this week, a report in The New York Times drew a lot of attention to a world of strange and sometimes disturbing videos on YouTube aimed at young children.

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.

In August of this year, YouTube announced that it would no longer allow creators to monetize videos which “made inappropriate use of family friendly characters.” Today it’s taking another step to try and police this genre.

“We’re in the process of implementing a new policy that age restricts this content in the YouTube main app when flagged,” said Juniper Downs, YouTube’s director of policy. “Age-restricted content is automatically not allowed in YouTube Kids.” YouTube says that it’s been formulating this new policy for a while, and that it’s not rolling it out in direct response to the recent coverage.

The first line of defense for YouTube Kids are algorithmic filters. After that, there is a team of humans that review videos which have been flagged. If a video with recognizable children’s characters gets flagged in YouTube’s main app, which is much larger than the Kids app, it will be sent to the policy review team. YouTube says it has thousands of people working around the clock in different time zones to review flagged content. If the review finds the video is in violation of the new policy, it will be age restricted, automatically blocking it from showing up in the Kids app.

YouTube says it typically takes at least a few days for content to make its way from YouTube proper to YouTube Kids, and the hope is that within that window, users will flag anything potentially disturbing to children. YouTube also has a team of volunteer moderators, which it calls Contributors, looking for inappropriate content. YouTube says it will start training its review team on the new policy and it should be live within a few weeks.

Along with filtering content out of the Kids app, the new policy will also tweak who can see these videos on YouTube’s main service. Flagged content will be age restricted, and users won’t be able to see those videos if they’re not logged in on accounts registered to users 18 years or older. All age-gated content is also automatically exempt from advertising. That means this new policy could put a squeeze on the booming business of crafting strange kid’s content.