Is it possible for a site as massive as YouTube to ever be truly brand safe? While YouTube weathered brand safety concerns earlier this year (when brand ads were found next to extremist content) and even came out ahead when advertisers returned in greater numbers, it now has a fresh advertiser pullout crisis to deal with. Brands including Adidas, Mars, Sky, and Diageo have halted their YouTube ads after the Times of London revealed their ads appeared next to videos of children that attracted sexualized comments from viewers. This opens up a new problem for YouTube, as this time it was the comments and not the videos that were objectionable. Due to the number of videos and comments the platform receives daily, there’s no effective way to police it all.
YouTube has had a children’s video problem for a few months now due to low-quality producers churning out kid vids with bizarre and often adult content. YouTube responded by removing ads from many channels and shutting down others. Some videos were flagged for showing children in harmful situations.
This latest problem started over the holiday weekend. According to a Wall Street Journal report, YouTube is urgently working to remove videos and comments that sexualize children. The site previously removed advertising from 3 million videos and planned to do the same for 500,000 more. Because of this latest problem, YouTube shut down hundreds of accounts that were used to make sexualized comments and banned comments on thousands of videos.
If that problem wasn’t enough, YouTube’s autofill was caught suggesting inappropriate searches regarding children, something that may have been planted by pranksters in order to embarrass the company. The Guardian reports that YouTube is working quickly to remove the objectionable searches and stave off another advertiser pullout.
“Earlier today our teams were alerted to this profoundly disturbing autocomplete result and we worked to quickly remove it as soon as we were made aware. We are investigating this matter to determine what was behind the appearance of this autocompletion,” a YouTube representative told the paper.