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YouTube bans account of parents whose prank videos depicted child abuse

YouTube bans account of parents whose prank videos depicted child abuse


The FamilyOFive account has been terminated for good

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Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

YouTube has terminated the FamilyOFive account that belonged to Maryland parents Mike and Heather Martin. Both parents were charged with child neglect last fall, sentence to five years probation, and lost custody of two of their five children after using the kids to make viral prank videos that featured depictions of child abuse. Pressure has been mounting on YouTube to take action against the account after it was discovered the Martins were still active on the platform. The account’s most recent video was posted four days ago.

The Martins claimed their children, the youngest of whom was 10 years old as of last year, were largely acting in the videos. However, verbal shouting matches and depictions of physical violence, alongside evidence that their children sustained injuries while filming the videos, received widespread condemnation from members of the YouTube community who claimed the couple were exploiting their children and monetizing disturbing depictions of child abuse. One outspoken critic was prominent YouTuber Philip DeFranco, whose videos on the subject shined a continued spotlight on the couple’s behavior.

The Martins changed the name of the account and continued operating on YouTube

Following the child neglect charge, the Martins moved from Maryland to West Virginia with their three remaining children, and they’ve been operating the channel under the new name after changing it from its initial DaddyOFive title. At the channel’s height, it had more than 750,000 subscribers and racked up more than 175 million views. Now, searching for FamilyOFive videos on YouTube will still pull up thumbnails and listings for the account’s videos, but clicking on them will display an onscreen statement reading announcing the termination.

“Content that endangers children is unacceptable to us. We have worked extensively alongside experts in child safety to make sure we have strict policies and are aggressively enforcing them. Given this channel owner’s previous strikes for violating our Guidelines prohibiting child endangerment, we’re removing all of his channels under our Terms of Service,” reads a statement from YouTube provided to CBS-affiliate WUSA9. YouTube now requires that videos featuring children comply with local child labor laws.

WUSA9 also obtained a statement from the Martins:

Our family has worked very hard to heal and reestablish ourselves over the past 18 months. Through a lot of hard work and introspection, we are all doing well, and are happy. YouTube is something we enjoy as a family, and we will continue to do it, within the strict boundaries we have set for ourselves. For the sake of our privacy and continued healing, I have no further comment or anything past, or present at this time.