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Disney reportedly pulls ads from YouTube following child exploitation controversy

Following Nestlé and Epic Games

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Disney has reportedly pulled its ads from YouTube entirely in the wake of new controversy over a series of new videos showcasing child exploitation on the site.

A report from Bloomberg states that Disney has “withheld its spending” on YouTube in the wake of creator Matt Watson’s explainer, which demonstrates how predators use videos of children to sexually exploit them. Disney joins Fortnite developer Epic Games and Nestlé in removing its ads from the platform. (Epic removed its Fortnite preroll ads that appear before a video plays.) Other companies, including Peloton, have asked YouTube to investigate the situation.

Although predatory behavior has been an issue on YouTube for some time, many of these new videos came to light, thanks to Watson’s video. Watson demonstrated that searching for something like “bikini haul” can often lead to exploitative videos of children. Comment sections are full of predators timestamping certain parts of a video that sexualizes children in the scene. These videos aren’t pornographic in nature, but they are circulated among the platform between predators. Watson’s video quickly circulated online, and a lengthy post on Reddit remained on the front page for several hours.

A YouTube spokesperson previously told The Verge, “We took immediate action by deleting accounts and channels, reporting illegal activity to authorities and disabling violative comments” when asked about Watson’s video. A YouTube spokesperson told The Verge the statement hasn’t changed since. The Verge has reached out to Disney for comment, and we’ll update this post if we hear back.

“Any content — including comments — that endangers minors is abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube,” the spokesperson said. “There’s more to be done, and we continue to work to improve and catch abuse more quickly.”

YouTube has given advertisers more control over where their videos run over the last few years following a series of disturbing videos that ran with ads. Advertisers threatened to pull ads after disturbing content was found running on the platform with ads attached. Concerns from companies only grew after PewDiePie, YouTube’s most popular creator, found himself in trouble following coverage over a video that contained anti-Semitic imagery. PewDiePie was dropped by Disney’s Maker Studios, a multichannel network that worked with many YouTube creators, in the wake of the incident.