The Adpocalypse part 2: YouTube faces advertiser boycott over videos that attracted sexual predators

A few weeks ago James Bride wrote "Something is wrong on the internet", where he delves into the mysterious world of automation and kids videos on youtube and finds content ranging from mildly upsetting to profoundly creepy. As more people paid attention, Youtube panicked and began shutting down channels that they previously had no issue with, like the Toy Freaks channel which had reached the top 100 most-viewed channels on YouTube with 8.53 million subscribers. Webs and Tiaras were also shut down, as was Toy Monsters, but similarly odd channels that still exist are trending all over youtube to fill the void, and advertisers are no getting wise to the fact that their banners & pre-rolls are feeding the machine that James Bride so eloquently described in his now viral post. As the Times reported on that YouTube adverts fund paedophile habits, brands have now taken their media budget elsewhere.

"BT, Adidas, Deutsche Bank, eBay, Amazon, Mars, Diageo and Talktalk are among dozens of brands whose adverts appear on the videos, which are published on the Google-owned platform. Many have gained millions of views by showing young girls filming themselves in underwear, doing the splits, brushing their teeth or rolling around in bed."

In response to the report, YouTube said in a statement, “There shouldn’t be any ads running on this content, and we are working urgently to fix this.” We've heard them say that before. In 2015 Youtube tightened the rules of what was allowed to be monetized. Back in 2016 when Youtube rolled out a new email alert system to tell content creators when their videos were demonetized, #YouTubeIsOverParty trended as it seemed to only hurt political content creators. But as Super Bowl ads pre-rolled over ISIS propaganda videos, brands walked away from Youtube and Google advertising en masse. Youtube now face another boycott as all of their promised tightening of the controls hasn't affected the kids videos at all. On youtube startling videos targeting kids slip past the filters, and brands that want to be loved by kids do not want to be associated with scary trauma. Youtube has repeatedly vowed to better filter and have more control, and repeatedly failed. “Until we have confidence that appropriate safeguards are in place, we will not advertise on YouTube and Google,” Mars said in a statement to media on Friday. Deutsche Bank said it suspended advertising on YouTube immediately after becoming aware of the problem, and in a statement said they are investigating why it happened.

“As always, our digital marketing agency applied filters to prevent our advertising appearing alongside inappropriate content, and we are investigating how the situation arose.”

Youtube have explained in a blog post what they are doing now regarding inappropriate content.

We have always had strict policies against child endangerment, and we partner closely with regional authorities and experts to help us enforce these policies and report to law enforcement through NCMEC. In the last couple of weeks we expanded our enforcement guidelines around removing content featuring minors that may be endangering a child, even if that was not the uploader’s intent. In the last week we terminated over 50 channels and have removed thousands of videos under these guidelines, and we will continue to work quickly to remove more every day.

Youtube have a lot of pressure to clean up and fast, as the Daily Mail reported that YouTube's system for reporting sexual comments on children's videos has not been working for more than a year. U.K.’s ISBA advertising trade group called for an emergency meeting with Google to discuss the issue, it will take place next week. A spokesperson from Mars told Sky News:

"We are shocked and appalled to see that our adverts have appeared alongside such exploitative and inappropriate content. It is in stark contrast to who we are and what we believe. We have taken the decision to immediately suspend all our online advertising on YouTube and Google globally. We have stringent guidelines and processes in place and are working with Google and our media buying agencies to understand what went wrong. Until we have confidence that appropriate safeguards are in place, we will not advertise on You Tube and Google."

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Dabitch's picture

Additionally, from the BBC who report that Mars, Lidl, Adidas, Deutsche Bank, Cadbury and others have pulled all advertisements from YouTube now.

The BBC was alerted to the scale of the problem by volunteer members of YouTube's Trusted Flagger programme who alert the site to potential violations of its guidelines.
Trusted Flaggers who talked to the BBC said there could be up to 100,000 active predatory accounts on the site, all of which were able to survive because the system to report them did not work well.
YouTube has responded to the twin investigations by shutting accounts used to make predatory comments and by turning off comments on thousands of videos.
The ad suspensions come only days after YouTube unveiled new measures that were supposed to limit the spread of sexualised and violent content.

Spiderman's picture

Youtube will have a lot of channels to clean up, and even then why should advertisers trust a company that seems driven by reaction and not prevention? We have known for years that there's inappropriate content, but flagging videos does nothing. There's tons of Elsagate and Bad Baby channels like, Crazy Bad Baby & Toys and Funny Kids Surprise Eggs, BoHaHa and tons more.

Dabitch's picture

Oh, some of those clips in the channels you linked are really disturbing and the fact that they are still there shows that Youtube are still not on the ball here.

Advertisers are doing the right thing staying away from this as long as there's no possibility to avoid such disturbing content.