A Peppa Pig 'parody' that has been viewed more than a million times
A Peppa Pig 'parody' that has been viewed more than a million times

YouTube tries to fight back as people use site to trick children into watching horrifying videos

Many of the videos appear to depict children's TV characters. But that is in fact a trick to generate views and show horrible events

Andrew Griffin@_andrew_griffin
Friday 10 November 2017 17:28

YouTube is trying to stop children from being tricked into watching horrifying videos, it has said.

The site has received sustained criticism for allowing people to upload videos that appear to show things that might be watched by children, including videos depicting popular characters like Peppa Pig or Elsa from the film Frozen, but in fact show intensely graphic things like pain and guns. What's more, the site actively encourages children to carry on watching those things, since they are suggested when one innocent video has finished.

A blog post from writer James Bridle was the latest report to document just how frightening many of those videos are. Some of them appear to being created by robots, which add various key words into videos in an attempt to play YouTube, while others seem to be actively made by people who are looking to disturb children who watch them.

They might show Peppa Pig, but experiencing excruciating pain and torture at the dentist, for instance. Or they might simply show strange things happening to children's characters, like an example where children's TV characters' heads are removed and swapped onto different bodies.

"Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatise, and abuse children, automatically and at scale," wrote Mr Bridle.

The videos appear calculated to automatically fill up popular searches, generate views, and so generate money through YouTube's ad revenue sharing programmes.

Now YouTube has said that is doing more to stop promoting and allowing children to watch those videos, including introducing a range of technical solutions. The videos already can't make money if they are flagged, the company said, but it will now attempt to chase them off the site.

It said that it was introducing a feature that would stop the videos being showed in YouTube kids if they are being flagged. "The YouTube team is made up of parents who are committed to improving our apps and getting this right," said Juniper Downs, YouTube's director of policy.

But that work might be difficult given the sheer number of such videos that can be found on YouTube. Since many of them are automatically generated and uploaded, there are tens of thousands of the strange posts all over the site, and they are uploaded far more quickly than they could ever be flagged and taken down.

They also require someone to flag them. Given that YouTube Kids is often being used by children, it might be unlikely that many of the viewers will actually be in a place to do so.

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