YouTube will now take stronger action to prevent predatory comments posted on videos of children. According to a blog post, YouTube will suspend comments on videos that feature minors that “could be at risk of attracting predatory behavior.” This measure is designed to prevent predatory commenters from gathering in the comments section of such videos.
While the word “all” isn’t used to describe the to-be-comment-free videos, YouTube explains that only a “small number” of creators will be able to keep their comment sections enabled on videos that include kids.
“These channels will be required to actively moderate their comments, beyond just using our moderation tools, and demonstrate a low risk of predatory behavior,” YouTube’s blog post says. “We will work with them directly, and our goal is to grow this number over time as our ability to catch violative comments continues to improve.”
How did we get here?
YouTube continues to double-down after last week’s controversy regarding a pedophilia wormhole discovered on the platform. A few clicks on video results for search terms like “bikini haul” would produce a recommended section full of suggestive, provocative, and disturbing videos of minors. Many comments left on these videos were correctly called out as predatory and encouraging pedophilia.
Some of these predatory videos had ads running over them, and those companies were not happy with YouTube once they found out about this controversy. What followed was ad-pocalypse 3.0 (Maybe 4.0? We’ve lost count.) as companies like Nestle, Disney, and creator Epic Games pulled their ads from the platform.
In response, YouTube decided to combat both predatory video creators and commenters by temporarily disabling comments on tens of millions of videos featuring minors and deleting hundreds of channels. However, non-predatory videos got caught up in the wave, sparking outrage from large creators and “mom and dad” vloggers who primarily post videos including their children. It didn’t quell fears when YouTube limited the ads running over some videos featuring minors as well.
Enter YouTube’s blog post today, which was likely penned to clarify the company’s stance on comments and videos featuring children and teens as well as institute new policy. However, it remains unclear if YouTube’s new policy means it will automatically disable the comments section on newly posted videos featuring minors or if it will retroactively disable comments on existing videos. We assume YouTube will do both, but we’ve reached out to the company for clarification. YouTube also just launched a new comments classifier, which will detect and remove even more predatory comments than before.
Why creators were (and will continue) to be frustrated
While the thought of losing ad dollars frustrated some creators, others were just as passionate about keeping their comments sections alive—and rightly so. Many creators use the comments sections of their videos to interact with their followers, and for some, comments are the most interactive part of their YouTube channels. Losing that puts a large barrier between many creators and their viewers.
But YouTube doesn’t have many other options in this scenario. YouTube and Google at large do not want to be seen as promoting pedophilia or perpetuating content that could harm minors, so sweeping policy was inevitable.
But like most big policy changes at YouTube, the small creators will be the ones to feel the effects the most. That’s good in some ways, because some YouTube channels are created solely for creating and sharing predatory videos. But first-time vlogging parents will likely be unable to use the comments section to grow a following.
Notably, there’s no word on whether certain creators will be able to petition to get their comments sections re-enabled. But YouTube updated its original statement to make clear that historically predatory channels will lose comment privileges once and for all.
“Based on our review of historical comments, a small number of channels that we have identified as having a high level of risk for predatory comments will not be able to re-enable comments, even with moderation,” the updated statement says. “The owners of these channels will be notified of these actions.”