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YouTube says it will block predatory comment sections on videos of minors

Photo by Amelia Holowaty Krales / The Verge

After a Verge story detailed glaring examples of predatory comments on videos of children, YouTube announced today that it will turn off comments entirely on videos where it detects predatory behavior.

Last week, The Verge reported on the scope of the problem: videos of young children doing activities like gymnastics were being targeted by commenters making sexual comments, or inviting the children to talk. At the time, YouTube removed several of the videos provided by The Verge, some of which had hundreds of thousands or more views.

The company said in its statement today that, although those comments have never been permissible, it was taking new steps to make sure they don’t appear on its platform. “Comments of this nature are abhorrent and we work with NCMEC to report illegal behavior to law enforcement,” the company wrote in a blog post. “Starting this week we will begin taking an even more aggressive stance by turning off all comments on videos of minors where we see these types of comments.”

YouTube also announced several other changes it was making in response to recent criticism over how kids create and view content. The company said it was using technology to flag problematic videos more quickly, and would remove ads from “inappropriate” videos targeting families. YouTube said it will also provide new guidelines on its YouTube Kids content and will engage more experts for help.

YouTube has faced difficult questions about content targeted toward children in recent weeks, largely after a viral Medium post exposed bizarre videos targeting child viewers. “These latest enforcement changes will take shape over the weeks and months ahead as we work to tackle this evolving challenge,” the company said.