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YouTube is ‘aggressively approaching’ solution to child exploitation controversy

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Including restricting monetization and sweeping channels

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YouTube is “aggressively approaching” a solution to its recent child exploitation controversy by clamping down on monetization, increasing moderation, and addressing recommendation search issues.

This week, YouTube has further limited which videos some ads can run on and has applied those ad restrictions to millions of videos, according to a memo sent to advertisers, which was obtained by AdWeek. The memo describes how YouTube is trying to protect children as major companies, including Disney, Epic Games, AT&T, and Nestle, pull ads from the platform.

It’s a direct response to an ongoing campaign bringing attention to videos used by predators to exploit children. The campaign, organized by creator Matt Watson, specifically speaks to the fact that advertisers’ commercials are running on these videos.

YouTube says it may also ask creators to more rigorously moderate their comments. The memo also states that while the company carries the burden for the comments appearing on the site in the first place, “we can hold monetizing channel owners to a higher standard.”

A YouTube spokesperson said the company has taken a more continuous, aggressive approach to fighting this type of content and behavior on its platform, including hiring social workers, child development specialists, former prosecutors, and former FBI and CIA employees. The spokesperson also said that YouTube removes thousands of channels per week run by children under the age of 13.

One key change YouTube worked on in the wake of the scandal was addressing its recommendation algorithm. Watson showed that certain terms, like “bikini haul,” led the algorithm to suggest videos within five or six clicks that contained predatory comments. YouTube realized that autocomplete suggestions may have increased the likelihood that someone would come across that content, and has taken action to remove those suggestions, according to a spokesperson. The recommendation algorithm has long been an issue for YouTube in a variety of areas, including surfacing conspiracy theories and hateful content, but the change seems to only affect this specific issue.

YouTube is facing criticism from users and advertisers, but other creators have come out in defense of the platform. “Once they were made aware of the offending content, they handled the situation,” commentator Philip DeFranco said. “The best thing we can do is report disgusting monsters like we would anywhere else on the internet.”

Other YouTube creators are concerned that a new adpocalypse — a word used to describe when YouTube heavily restrict ads — is on the horizon. “I’m not reporting the story because it negatively affects the whole YouTube community,” Daniel “Keemstar” Keem, the host of the popular show DramaAlert, tweeted earlier this week. “We don’t need another ad apocalypse.”

YouTube has taken similar issues in the past to address troubling content on the platform, leading to a reduction in revenue for creators outside of the controversy. A YouTube spokesperson wouldn’t tell The Verge how this week’s changes will affect creators’ monetization right now.