Companies including Nestle, Epic and reportedly Disney suspend YouTube ads over child exploitation concerns
Days after a YouTube creator accused the platform of enabling a “soft-core pedophilia ring,” several companies have suspended advertising on the platform, including Nestle, Epic, and reportedly Disney and McDonald’s.
Nestle told CNBC that all of its companies in the U.S. have paused advertising on YouTube, while a spokesperson for Epic, maker of the massively popular game Fortnite, said it has suspended all pre-roll advertising. Other companies that confirmed publicly they are pausing YouTube advertising include Purina, GNC, Fairlife, Canada Goose, and Vitacost. Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal report that Walt Disney Co. and McDonald’s, respectively, have pulled advertising, too.
Other advertisers, including Peloton and Grammarly, said they are calling on YouTube to resolve the issue.
The latest scandal over YouTube’s content moderation problems took off on Sunday when YouTube creator Matt Watson posted a video and in-depth Reddit post describing how pedophiles are able to manipulate the platform’s recommendation algorithm to redirect a search for “bikini haul” videos, featuring adult women, to exploitative clips of children. Some otherwise innocuous videos also had inappropriate comments, including some with timestamps that captured children in compromising positions.
A YouTube spokesperson sent a statement to TechCrunch that said “Any content – including comments – that endangers minors is abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube. We took immediate action by deleting accounts and channels, reporting illegal activity to authorities and disabling comments on tens of millions of videos that include minors. There’s more to be done, and we continue to work to improve and catch abuse more quickly.”
The platform has also reported comments to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and is taking further steps against child exploitation, including hiring more experts.
Watson’s report, however, highlights that YouTube continues to struggle with content that violates its own policies, even after a series of reports two years ago led to what creators dubbed the “adpocalpyse.” In an effort to appease advertisers, YouTube gave them more control over what videos their ads would appear before and also enacted more stringent policies for creators. Many YouTubers, however, have complained that the policies are unevenly enforced with little transparency, dramatically lowering their revenue but giving them little recourse to fix issues or appeal the platform’s decisions, even as objectionable content remains on the platform.