This Is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

I have been following a story that broke about a week ago via sources like arsTECHNICA, in which it was reported that big names like Disney and Epic Games (creators of Fortnite) had pulled all advertising from YouTube.

When I first heard that Disney had done so, I immediately thought this was in relation to them pulling their content off of Netflix pending the launch of their own new streaming service. But the actual reason turned out to be far more disturbing.

As it turns out, pedophiles have been engaged in a sick tagging activity in which they note seemingly innocent things in videos of children by commenting only the time stamp in which a child does something that may be appealing to other pedophiles. In one example given, a parent had uploaded a video of her daughter’s gymnastics class. Buried in the comments that follow are time stamps like “10:22”, as that is a point in the video when one of the little girls does a cartwheel.

Other examples of videos are given that I’m not going to get into too much detail here, but the comments come across innocent to children who don’t yet understand these types of things, and they unwittingly reply. One child was even tricked into telling their age.

This also leads to what has been referred to as a “Pedophilia Soft-Core Wormhole” because of YouTube’s “More Like This” algorithm. This algorithm has always been one of my favorite features, especially when it comes to listening to music on YouTube. It’s great for discovering new or previously forgotten content. But in the context of videos with children, it’s easy for the stable minded to see how this can further feed the disturbed mind of the pedophile.

For their part Google, who owns YouTube, has pledged to come up with tools to help combat this – starting with tweaking algorithms that are currently in place. Other measures include things like disabling comments for videos posted on accounts owned by children under 18, or videos that have children in them. Which brought to mind a couple of questions –

  1. Is it necessary to have comments on YouTube videos?
  2. What is the purpose of having comments on YouTube videos?

This type of revelation could not have come at a worse time as more and more young people marvel at the successes of those like MKBHD – those YouTubers who are now commonly referred to as “influencers”. In fact, my daughter has her very own YouTube channel and is excited about hopefully making it grow. Couple that with the massive and ever growing online gaming community, as well as recent statistics that show young people spend far less time watching conventional TV as they do viewing YouTube content, it is simply unfortunate to know that the creeps of the world will try to follow them no matter where they go.

But to be clear here (especially to parents reading this), I do not intend this to be taken as a warning to “keep your kids off of YouTube!” or the internet itself for that matter. The fact is, creeps are everywhere. They always have been and always will be. We don’t simply keep our kids away from playgrounds knowing that creeps may be around, do we? If so, we have simply let the “bad guys” win.

Rather I offer this especially to those who may not have been aware. I believe the takeaway should be to, as usual, be aware. Be conscious of videos you may be posting of your children. Talk to your kids who may have their own YouTube channels – help them understand, at appropriate levels, the potential impact of what the videos they post may have. Familiarize yourself with YouTube controls – I’ve spoken to people before who were surprised to learn that videos you upload to YouTube don’t have to be available for public consumption. Rather, you can set them to be viewable only by those you choose (this is perfect for sharing with extended family). And if need be, don’t forget to reach out to YouTube Help.

The fact is, we can have nice things. We just need to remember to be good stewards of them.

 

 

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