YouTube to block comments on children at risk of ‘predatory behaviour’

YouTube has said it will suspend comments on videos featuring children which “could be at risk of attracting predatory behaviour”.

The site said it has disabled comments on tens of millions of videos over the past week after a YouTube vlogger alleged he had discovered a “wormhole” into a “soft-core paedophile ring”.

US-based Matt Watson, who posts videos to his channel MattsWhatItIs, has said he had found instances of paedophiles targeting videos of young girls on the site.

Companies including Nestle and Fortnite maker Epic Games suspended advertising on the video site in the wake of the claims pending investigations.

In a statement on its “Creator Blog” on Thursday, Google-owned YouTube said “the important steps we’re sharing today are critical for keeping young people safe”.

The statement said: “Over the past week, we disabled comments from tens of millions of videos that could be subject to predatory behaviour.

“These efforts are focused on videos featuring young minors and we will continue to identify videos at risk over the next few months.

“Over the next few months, we will be broadening this action to suspend comments on videos featuring young minors and videos featuring older minors that could be at risk of attracting predatory behaviour.”

YouTube said a “small number of creators” will be able to keep comments on but will be “required to actively moderate their comments, beyond just using our moderation tools, and demonstrate a low risk of predatory behaviour”.

Images of child sexual abuse removed
A person using a laptop (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

The site said it has also launched a more effective “comments classifier” which is “more sweeping in scope and will detect and remove 2x more individual comments”.

The statement added: “Videos encouraging harmful and dangerous challenges targeting any audience are also clearly against our policies.

“We will continue to take action when creators violate our policies in ways that blatantly harm the broader user and creator community.”

Separately, YouTube said it had not received any evidence of the so-called Momo challenge on its site.

Children’s charities have said reports of a ghoulish figure being connected to messages urging self-harm and suicide is a hoax.

Last week YouTube said in 48 hours it had taken an aggressive approach beyond its normal protections to terminate more than 400 channels.

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