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YouTube Hopes to Silence Child Predators by Shuttering Comments on Videos of Kids

YouTube announced on Thursday that it will switch off the comments section on videos showing minors, in response to reports that highlighted the problem of pedophiles leaving sexual comments on videos of children.

“We recognize that comments are a core part of the YouTube experience and how you connect with and grow your audience. At the same time, the important steps we’re sharing today are critical for keeping young people safe,” the company said in a blog post.

YouTube has disabled comments on tens of millions of videos the company believes “could be subject to predatory behavior.” While the new policy is designed to create a safer community, YouTube said it will allow some creators to keep their comments sections active.

“These channels will be required to actively moderate their comments, beyond just using our moderation tools, and demonstrate a low risk of predatory behavior,” the blog post said.

YouTube is also launching a new “classifier” that the company said is twice as effective in weeding out comments that violate YouTube’s policies. The response comes after several advertisers, including Disney, Nestle, and Fornite maker Epic Games, pulled their advertising dollars from YouTube after it was discovered some of their ads were running alongside the predatory comments.

Dylan Collins, CEO and co-founder of SuperAwesome, a London-based company that builds products that help other companies create kid-friendly online experiences, said the new policy is a positive step forward for YouTube.

“It’s an important acknowledgement from YouTube that general audience platforms, which were originally designed for adults, must have a deliberate strategy to ensure kids are protected. Ticking a box to say they are over thirteen is simply not an approach that scales, when every day, 170,000 new children are going online,” he said, citing a statistic from UNICEF.
Over the past year, YouTube has been forced to confront several issues that have long festered on its platform. For instance, YouTube’s recommendation algorithms have been under scrutiny after it has continued to serve up conspiracy theory videos. The company addressed the problem again in a blog post last month and said it will “begin reducing recommendations of borderline content and content that could misinform users in harmful ways—such as videos promoting a phony miracle cure for a serious illness, claiming the earth is flat, or making blatantly false claims about historic events like 9/11.”