YouTube is disabling all comments on videos of young children

“YouTube is disabling all comments on videos featuring young children as it attempts to head off an organised ring of paedophiles who were using its site to trade clips of young girls in states of undress,” says the Guardian’s Alex Hern.

In a YouTube blog post addressing the issue to creators, the company wrote: “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. Thank you for your understanding and feedback as we continue our work to protect the YouTube community.”

“The company also says it has launched a new machine learning system that it says will remove twice as many comments as the old one,” tweeted Alex Hern.

Excerpt from his report:

YouTube will turn off comments on all videos that contain young children, the company says, as well as a number of other enforcement actions designed to stave off an advertiser boycott sparked by the discovery of an organised paedophile ring operating in plain sight on the video sharing platform.

The company will disable all comments on videos featuring younger children, and will also disable comments on those videos of older children that have some risk of attracting predatory behaviour, YouTube says.

It has also prioritised the launch of an AI moderator that is “more sweeping in scope, and will detect and remove two times more individual comments” than its predecessor, in an attempt to identify and remove predatory comments before they can cause harm.

The new policies follow the discovery last week of a paedophile ring that used the platform to find and share clips of videos featuring young children in states of undress. The group, discovered by YouTuber Matt Watson, would post comments in videos of young girls doing exercises, dancing, or performing gymnastics, often adding details like the time stamps at which underwear was visible.

YouTube’s recommendation algorithm was even co-opted by the group: after a viewer watched enough videos favoured by the ring’s members, the algorithm would automatically start to recommend other videos featuring young children.