For the past two weeks, YouTube has been doing damage control. After YouTuber Matt Watson discovered swarms of pedophilic comments on videos of young kids, major marketers pulled their ad spend, and YouTube has since been taking increasingly drastic steps to waylay the likely inevitable coming of Adpocalypse 2.0.
Now, in its latest and certainly most radical move, YouTube has disabled comments on tens of millions of videos that show kids who are under 18. The mass disabling affects channels posting videos “that could be subject to predatory behavior,” YouTube said in a Creator Blog post about the subject.
In action, those who could be subject to predatory behavior appears to be virtually everyone whose channel regularly has videos of kids. Even small channels, like actor Jason Nash’s family vlog, which has 220,000 subs, have been hit. In fact, YouTube says only “a small number of creators” will be able to keep comments enabled on videos of kids. Those creators have to adhere to a strict set of regulations, including requirements to “actively moderate their comments, beyond just using our moderation tools.” They’ll also have to “demonstrate a low risk of predatory behavior.”
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And YouTube isn’t stopping at the tens of millions of videos it’s already de-commented. “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,” the platform said in its blog post.
This announcement comes less than a week after YouTube said it would be demonetizing videos of minors where inappropriate comments were left — even if the videos were entirely innocent. It received significant backlash for the decision, including from Christian family vlogger Jessica Ballinger (1.2 million subscribers), who spoke up about the change after a number of her family’s videos were demonetized despite being advertiser-appropriate. YouTube confirmed to her that “even if your video is suitable for advertisers, inappropriate comments could result in your video receiving limited or no ads.”
Ballinger said the policy was unfair, and sapped creators’ ad revenue as punishment for other users’ behavior. Mass disabling of comments seems like it’s intended to nix that problem, since there can’t be inappropriate comments if there are no comments at all.
“We recognize that comments are a core part of the YouTube experience and how you connect with and grow your audience,” YouTube said. “At the same time, the important steps we’re sharing today are critical for keeping young people safe. Thank you for your understanding and feedback as we continue our work to protect the YouTube community.”
Additional steps YouTube announced today include cracking down even more on its recently-revamped rules about harmful and dangerous challenges. The platform has already wiped some channels that “attempt[ed] to endanger children in any way” by showing or encouraging these challenges.
In addition to disabling comments and cracking down on challenges, YouTube is also implementing a new comment moderation algorithm, called a classifier, that will identify and remove predatory comments automatically. YouTube said the new classifier is capable of detecting twice the number of predatory comments as the old system.