The troubles around ethics in Youtube ad space continue to grow. First came the UK Government’s decision to pull its advertising. After that, swathes of other companies followed suit in fear of sitting aside recent uploads of ISIS extremism. This newest discovery will only make things worse.
Sparked off by mother & journalist Laura June’s lengthy description of how related videos in the YouTube Kids app lead to her 3-year-old daughter watching Peppa Pig brutalised by a dentist, BBC Trending has conducted a full investigation into these videos and the channels that upload them.
This has found a range of channels on YouTube releasing videos aimed to scare and confuse unsupervised children. Sometimes this just means crudely animated versions of shows like Peppa Pig and Doc McStuffins with new, darker plots. For example, zombie bites, bird attacks and STDs persist in the alternative McStuffins world. More shocking are accounts like Toys And Funny Kids Surprise Eggs; these produce lengthy pieces of stop motion animation around characters like Frozen’s Elsa being violently attacked.
As we write this, Toys And Funny is ranked in the top 100 most viewed youtube channels globally. The videos all link to others on the channel and are tagged with the things you would expect a child to search like ‘superhero funny toy tv’. Each video on these channels is between 10 minutes and an hour long, and has around 40 ad breaks. This shows that the deception is intentional.
A parent might not tolerate so many ads but a child can easily be convinced by their favourite characters. Parodies are harmless and hilarious, but these are attempting to specifically reach children with things that will upset and frighten them.
June describes how the “YouTube Kids app, by its own admission, does filter the videos to try to ensure it’s kid friendly, but it does so in an automated fashion, meaning that things like faux Peppa Pig sneak in quite easily”. A search for Peppa Pig finds results from these channels as early as the second page. Between this and other recent controversies, we predict a big change for YouTube’s restrictions in the near future.