Earlier this week, the New York Times reported that several major brands had decided to terminate their dealings with YouTube after their advertisements appeared in videos beside comments by paedophiles.
Nestle, Epic Games and several other brands said on Wednesday that they will discontinue adverts purchases with the video service. The companies are moved to act after their ads appeared on children’s videos where paedophiles had infiltrated the comment sections. Several innocent videos with young girls doing gymnastics, playing Twister or stretching became target of suggestive remarks and inappropriate comments by YouTube users.
A Google spokeswoman said that YouTube has removed the accounts and channels of people leaving the disturbing comments. The video host also said that some of the comments violated YouTube’s policies. Google said it also reported illegal activity to the authorities.
Is Google responsible for YouTube users leaving abusing comments on children’s videos?
Google would like us all to believe that the use of YouTube by paedophiles is an unfortunate event which it has no control over and which it did not cause. The truth, however, is very different.
For a start, not only that Google has known about this practice for some time, I would go as far as to suggest that by the way Google has conducted itself, it has willingly placed kids at substantial risks.
To fully understand Google’s culpability, we need to understand Google’s age restrictions policies in relation to YouTube and in relation to Google’s mobile phone operating system Android, which accounts to about 80% of the of the new mobile phone sales and which is where most YouTube videos are being watched.
So, starting with YouTube age restriction policy, and this is very important, Google officially says that YouTube users must be either 18 years sold, or 13 years old if they have a parent’s permission to use YouTube. This policy ignores reality and is only there to allow Google to try and get away with its legal and moral duty to safeguard the welfare of young children.
Google’s “no young children policy”
The problem for Google is that whilst declaring that it has a policy of “no young children” on YouTube, Google also promotes on YouTube videos and adverts which target young children. For example, Google pushes adverts for toys, using language and covert messages, which are squarely aimed at young kids.
Google knows very well that huge number of YouTube users are younger than 13. It knows this because it bombards them with money making adverts. Yet, Google is persistently refusing to publicly acknowledge this reality or adapt its policies and systems to reflect this reality and make YouTube safer for young people.
Astonishingly, Google had ensured that there is no effective parental control on either YouTube or on its Android phones. In fact, to be able to use an Android mobile phone, Google says that you must be 13 years old or older despite the fact that everybody (apart from Google apparently) knows that children who use YouTube and Android mobile phones are as young as 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, and 10.
So the little kids, in order to be able to use their mobile phone devices, must log into the handset by creating a fake Google account, pretending that they are older. The kids, or their parents have to fake the child’s age just so that the child can use a mobile telephone. It is practically impossible to use an Android mobile telephone device without logging in to a valid Google account first.
It is therefore bizarre, for Google to continue to pretend that it doesn’t know that there are children using its mobile devices.
Because Google forces parents and kids to fake the child’s age just to use a mobile device, the children are left unprotected and exposed to all sorts of risks on YouTube, including being offered to watch adult content and be at risk of being groomed by paedophiles.
Nobody really knows who is the young adult your child is spending time with
So why does Google pretend that it has no users that are under 13? The answer is that Google believes that this would allow it to take no steps to protect those young children, who doesn’t exist.
This lack of integrity by Google means that it actively exposes vulnerable children to very serious harm which is sexual, emotional and even physical. Whilst Google tries to hide behind it’s “over 13” policy, it invites children to come and watch baby stuff on YouTube. And whilst the innocent kids are there, their minds are being stolen by young adults called YouTubers. Google pays huge amount of money to YouTubers. However, nobody really knows who they are.
Some YouTubers spend 10s of hours each week with our children. The reality is that many YouTubers are getting paid by Google precisely because of their popularity among the kids. However, YouTubers are not vetted by YouTube or by Google. Anyone could be a YouTuber. Any young adult could spend hours and hours with your child and get paid for doing so by Google. Any sex offender, ex criminal or paedophile can chat with your under 13 child and get paid for doing this by Google. Being a YouTuber is probably one of the best modern methods for paedophiles to interact with young kids.
I’m of course not suggesting that all YouTubers are bad or are motivated by malintent. The majority of them, I’m sure, are harmless but this is completely beside the point. The point is that they are not vetted by Google and that Google pays them to interact with young children, which Google pretends don’t exist on its platform.
It is hard to decide which one is worst, the targeting of young children by Google’s or the pretence that the kids don’t really exist.
Advertisers should choose to stay away
The way Google has been conducting itself, so far as young children are concerned, is one of the greatest scandals of this century and one of the lowest points in Google’s history. It is therefore right, correct and courageous for large and small corporations, to keep away from YouTube, at least until it gets its act together and start placing the well-being of young children first.
As for our part, it will take at least some campaigning before Google is forced to act more responsibly. I encourage you to share this post now with as many parents as possible so that parents can start demanding the government to do more, to help keep our children safe on the internet.