YouTube will reportedly release a kids’ app curated by humans

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

YouTube plans to release a non-algorithmic, whitelisted version of its YouTube Kids app some time in the near future as a way to avoid inadvertently suggesting questionable or graphic content to children, according to a report this evening from BuzzFeed News. The modified version of the app will also be restricted to videos from hand-selected channels that a team of human curators at YouTube will approve.

The decision, though it has yet to be officially announced, comes amid longstanding concerns over YouTube’s suggestion algorithm inherently steers viewers toward increasingly extremist content. Just last month, a report from Business Insider illustrated how the YouTube Kids app was suggesting children watch videos filled with misinformation and conspiracy theories about the shape of the Earth, the Moon landing, and whether aliens exist.

Last year, YouTube became embroiled in a controversy called “Elsagate” involving strange, surreal, and sometimes disturbing videos featuring Disney characters and superheroes that were specifically designed to game the YouTube Kids algorithm and rack up views. The platform has also come under attack for its hosting of extremist content and its heavy-handed approach to content moderation to appease advertisers that find their products advertised alongside questionable content. In addition to those controversies, YouTube has struggled to deal with the people behind the channels that peddle questionable content, including conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who had his channel stripped of ads, and influencer Logan Paul, who remains on a 90-day suspension for running afoul of YouTube’s policies.

YouTube has made a number of efforts to try and crackdown specifically on child exploitation content, including removing advertising from millions of videos, imposing age restrictions on flagged content, and increasing the number of human moderators that scan its platform. To combat misinformation, YouTube announced last month that it would be using Wikipedia to help fact check videos suspected of peddling conspiracy theories, only for Wikipedia to turn around and publicly announce that it had never been informed of the decision.

We don’t know when exactly the special version of the YouTube Kids app will launch, but BuzzFeed reports that the option to switch to the whitelisted, non-algorithmic version will be opt-in for parents and it could arrive as soon as this month. In a statement, a YouTube spokesperson did not deny the news, but did not explicitly confirm it, either. “We are always working to update and improve YouTube Kids, however we don’t comment on rumor or speculation,” the statement reads.

Update at 10:05PM ET, 4/5: Added statement from YouTube.

Comments

Finally! Tha is what they should have done in the first place.

At least they’re willing to admit when something failed and move forward though. (I do agree with you 100% though)

Dont know. Kids that are already on youtube will not like a selected content that lacks the semi amateur histories using different toys. Is going to be hard to define what is ok.

By kids, they mean kids. Not teens who would know/care.

Kids knows, you can be sure.
I don´t think Youtube should exclude videos where you have Barbie, Peppa and Scooby-doo playing together, for example.
But those LOL surprise…

My 5yo consistently complains that she wants "youtube" back on her tablet. We removed the real youtube two years ago when the bad babies, weirdo elsa/spiderman stuff started to rear it’s filthy head. Her tablet is very paired down in what we allow her to do with it and my fiance and I are consistently re-adjusting her youtube kids playlist by blocking certain types of content.

She still loves watching youtube kids, but she 100% knows the difference in the content she’s able to get. When she goes to her dads every other weekend, she gets to play on "the real youtube" and it makes it impossible for us to express to her why she doesn’t have it at home.

Wow, how many staff will they need to go through all the YouTube videos?

They likely already have a list of trusted creators. From there you just have maybe 10 people watching videos for 8 hours a days, 5 days a week. There would be thousands of videos approved weekly. No kid can or should consume even a few hundred videos a week. If they are well then fuck, you’re failing as a parent.

Shut it down, now.

Any kind of YouTube is bad and dangerous for kids. Only curated content may be appropriated for them, not your shit.

This is absolutely false.

And that’s the whole purpose of YouTube changing it to human curation anyway. So that it is curated, so why shut it down?

Oh you don’t know? DJ CERLA is theVerge Google hater, he will hate on anything even thought as you can see in that comment completely contradict himself…

I’m with you – mostly because I’d rather kids go out and play, or do something more creative than consume content all the time, like paint, build lego or what not.

Sure there’s a place in life for everything, including consuming video entertainment in moderation, but seldom have I met a kid that doesn’t throw massive tantrums at the mere mention of restricted viewing. Which is to say when I have kids, their exposure to such platforms will be extremely, severely limited.

YouTube still does not get it… It’s like there are no parents in the design team. my kid knows what he wants to watch and when he wants to watch it. He does not want a curated experience. If anyone needs to curate it, it’s me and my wife… not any "human" at YouTube office.
Also, please give me control on what videos are available in offline mode… youtube algorithms or "human" are not better than me in knowing what my kids wants.. until then I have to stick with normal YouTube app, where I have control in offline videos.

More like you don’t get it. Also, love how you never actually mention what it is they don’t get! If the problem isn’t curation, then what is it they don’t get? Sheesh.

YouTube still does not get it… It’s like there are no parents in the design team. my kid knows what he wants to watch and when he wants to watch it.

Your kid is an imbecile who watches the videos that are available on youtube. He’s not going to sit there with a wine glass holding a monocle going "this selection of videos has clearly been pruned from the worst excesses prior to my laying eyes on it! I shall hack this computer and unlock the real youtube!"

You have no idea what you are talking about.

Have you ever watched one of those ridiculous kids-oriented videos ALL THE WAY THROUGH? what about… EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM?

I’m specifically talking about toy reviews, wierd stuff that is targeted at kids who are young enough to lack a lot of vocabulary (videos that are basically on the level with "mime" stuff)…

There are 2 problems, at least:

1) when one of those creators says/adds/does something inappropriate somewhere in a 20 minute video. Are you going to watch 80 hours of video to remove those from the list?

2) when someone malicious INTENTIONALLY tries to game the system by editing in graphic content. Its been done dozens, possibly hundreds, of times. the first 60 seconds in a cartoon, the last 30 seconds is hardcore German gay porn or ISIS videos (or worse; eastern european/russian murder videos, child porn, scat fetish, etc.)

The basic take away from this article is this:

Youtube is going to try to fix that final problem that exists with AI based filtering algorithms…

identifying something inappropriate (its easy for a machine to identify a naked person; not so easy for it to identify a person being stabbed in the face with a screwdriver)

That requires humans, at least for now (maybe the curation will train the AI… who knows)

so they are saying they are going to have humans watching, presumably, the entire videos.

Can’t really see the point of mentioning Alex Jones in this article. His content is not being targeted at kids and as such, probably has never shown up in the YouTube Kids app or being played back by any kid.

It’s right there in the same sentence.

"In addition to those controversies, YouTube has struggled to deal with the people behind the channels that peddle questionable content,"

Provides information that’s related to this specific story, about Youtube’s recent problems that are similar in nature. There’s a word/phrase for this but it’s 4am and my brain is dead.

*Hoomans

Why not just include it as a setting in the existing app? Why release a whole new product? It’s like the guy who used to be in charge of Google’s messaging strategy has been moved over to YouTube.

But that’s exactly what they will be doing.

So no copyright infringement material as you get now then. If someone had to actively view the content they can’t shrug and go Sheesh filters/algorithms.

Why another app tho? How about those kids and parents that already have installed and using that app? Why not just release a new feature on that Kids app itself, fix it’s algorithm and just improve that existing app itself than creating another one?

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