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Young children watching YouTube are being lured to adult websites | #socialmedia | #hacking | #aihp


Young children watching YouTube are being lured to websites promoting violent adult content through so-called ‘trap ads’, it can be revealed.

Around one in two videos labelled as ‘Made for Kids’ feature adverts alongside them that take users to third-party websites featuring inappropriate content.

It means children watching cartoons such as Barbie and Pip and Posy can, with just one click, be taken to sites advertising 18+ content like violent videogame Grand Theft Auto.

The loophole was uncovered by Global Action Plan, which is calling on the government to amend the Online Safety Bill to strengthen restrictions on social media ads.

Young children watching YouTube are being lured to websites promoting violent adult content through so-called ‘trap ads’, it can be revealed (stock image)

Oliver Hayes, policy and campaigns lead at the charity, said: ‘No company should be making cash via the peddling of violent videogames to pre-schoolers – let alone Google, one of the richest and most powerful companies in the world.’

The research, carried out alongside digital rights group Foxglove, found trap ads were appearing next to YouTube videos labelled – either by their creators or by YouTube themselves – as ‘Made for Kids’.

The videos include cartoons on the Barbie official channel, which has nearly 11 million subscribers, and TV show Pip and Posy which follows the animated adventures of a mouse and rabbit aimed at kids aged two to five.

These adverts appear to be age appropriate – one, for example, features a children’s toy in the picture and encourages viewers to visit Zebra Tests, a gaming platform for toddlers. However, once there, many of the sites also feature a huge amount of Google ads that constantly pop up.

These include adverts for violent video games such as Granny, a survival horror video game in which a corpse chases the player around the house with a blood-covered bat, and Grand Theft Auto which is aimed at adults and features swearing, crime, drugs and sex.

Global Action Plan said YouTube was ‘potentially exposing millions of young children to inappropriate and harmful content’.

Global Action Plan said YouTube was ‘potentially exposing millions of young children to inappropriate and harmful content’ (stock image)

Mr Hayes urged Google to ‘immediately close’ the loophole and ban third party links from adverts on ‘Made for Kids’ content.

The charity is calling on the UK Government to amend the Online Safety Bill to ban surveillance advertising to under-18s, and for social media companies to limit ads to 10 per cent of what people see in their feeds.

YouTube said it limited data collection and did not serve personalised ads on its ‘Made for Kids’ content as it treated any viewers, regardless of age, as a child.

A spokesperson said: ‘Protecting our youngest users is a priority for us and we continue to engage with parents, governments, industry leaders and experts to ensure YouTube is a safe platform.’

WHAT ARE YOUTUBE’S GUIDELINES FOR SEXUALLY EXPLICIT CONTENT?

YouTube has developed certain guidelines for any questionable content on the site. 

For example, with regards to terrorist content the guidelines are very strict. 

‘We do not permit terrorist organisations to use YouTube for any purpose, including recruitment.’

With hate speech the company tries to balance an individual’s right to free speech with stopping the propagation of hatred and fuelling violence. 

YouTube says there is a ‘fine line’ between what is and what is not considered to be hate speech. 

With regards to sexual content, context and severity play a significant role.  

Whilst sexually explicit content, such as pornography, is prohibited, other aspects may be permitted.

‘Videos containing fetish content will be removed or age-restricted depending on the severity of the act in question. In most cases, violent, graphic or humiliating fetishes are not allowed to be shown on YouTube.’

Nudity and sexual content may be allowed as long as the primary objective is non-sexual and it is not ‘gratuitously graphic’.

This allows for artistic, scientific and educational uses for nudity on the site. 

The firm emphasises that context to a video can play an important role in determining if it is allowed or not. 

In some cases that sit in the grey-area, YouTube can apply an age-restriction.

The guidelines state: ‘Videos featuring individuals in minimal or revealing clothing may be age-restricted if they’re intended to be sexually provocative, but don’t show explicit content.’

Several things play a role in deciding if a video should be age restricted.

These include:

  • Whether breasts, buttocks or genitals are the focal point of the video
  • Whether the video setting is sexually suggestive
  • If the pose of the subject is intended to sexually arouse the viewer
  • Whether the language used in the video is vulgar and/or lewd  

Other factors include:

  • The length of time an image appears in the video  
  • The relative clarity of the images in the video 

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