May 19, 2015
YouTube Kids is in app designated for young children yet, as a number of advocacy groups have discovered, it features some highly inappropriate videos such as teaching children how to tie a noose, boil gasoline or use a nail gun to shoot someone in the head.
And that is not all. The groups also discovered a clip with My Little Pony-themed pedophilia jokes, a video discussing hard-core pornography and a Bert and Ernie video dubbed over with a foul-mouthed argument from mobster movie Casino.
“Google’s YouTube Kids app is not suitable for kids. Parents and children, beware,” reads a petition from Change.org.
“The YouTube Kids app, which Google launched in February, contains highly inappropriate content. It includes videos filled with profanity, sexually explicit material, alcohol, smoking and drug references, and much more – in addition to a host of ads for toys and junk food.”
Change.org is also one of the groups that sent a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission last month requesting an anti-trust investigation into Google’s advertising practices in connection with its new YouTube Kids app.
The complaint identified three main issues:
- Intermixing advertising and programming in ways that deceive young children, who, unlike adults, lack the cognitive ability to distinguish between the two;
- Featuring numerous “branded channels” for McDonald’s, Barbie, Fisher-Price, and other companies, which are little more than program-length commercials;
- Distributing so-called “user-generated” segments that feature toys, candy, and other products without disclosing the business relationships that many of the producers of these videos have with the manufacturers of the products.
Now the groups — which also includes the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD), Consumer Watchdog, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry — are expanding the complaint, asking the FTC to look into the inappropriate content as well.
“We have discovered that Google’s deceptive practices toward parents are even more widespread and pervasive than we documented in our initial request for investigation,” the coalition wrote in a letter sent today to FTC secretary Donald Clark.
Google, in a blog post, said it has given parents the option of enabling only pre-selected videos. It also enables parents to turn off search to further limit what their child can see.
“We’ve taken a number of precautions to ensure that families searching in YouTube Kids will only see results that are appropriate for younger audiences,” Google wrote.
“We use a mix of automated analysis, manual sampling, and input from our users to categorize and screen out videos and topics that may make parents nervous. YouTube handles tremendous breadth, depth and scale of content — around 300 hours of video uploaded every minute — so while we work hard to get it right, it’s nearly impossible to have 100 percent accuracy. That’s why we give parents the option to turn off search for a more restricted experience.”
Without parental controls, children can surf channels and playlists in four categories: Shows, Music, Learning and Explore. They can also do searches for videos on a specific topic.
A number of reviews on both platforms mention the ability to access inappropriate content.
“There are too many videos to be actively screening out/blocking,” on reviewer said. “It would be better and safer for kids if parents could explicitly add videos or channels only they deem appropriate to their kids app. Like an individually tailored sandbox. Not the other way around, which is how it operates currently.”
Another reviewer said: “Love the app but… Need to be able to control some of the crud! Needs more parental controls.”
Here is a look at some of videos encountered on YouTube Kids:
A lecture discussing hardcore pornography by Cindy Gallop:
A “Sesame Street” episode dubbed with long strings of expletives:
References to pedophilia in a homemade video reviewing a “My Little Pony” episode:
A DIY video on conducting illegal piracy, featuring pictures of marijuana leaves:
A how-to on getting a dark tan in a tanning bed:
An ad for Puma featuring scantily clad women:
A tour of London pubs, featuring plenty of drinking:
A how-to on using a circular saw:
Jennifer Cowan is the Managing Editor for SiteProNews.