At the end of November 2017, Buzzfeed News confirmed dozens of users that were reporting how a Youtube search starting with “how to have” auto-filled with pedophiliac phrases. These phrases included “how to have s*x with your kids” and “how to have s*x kids”. Even on incognito browsers that don’t take into account past search history, the same results appeared.
When YouTube became aware of the issue a spokeswoman said, “Earlier today our teams were alerted to this profoundly disturbing autocomplete result and we worked to quickly remove it as soon as we were made aware… We are investigating this matter to determine what was behind the appearance of this auto-completion.” I have since tested the auto search and no pedophiliac phrases popped up. We are thankful that YouTube responded so quickly to this serious issue but at the same time are discouraged by that fact that those pedophilia phrases were even options for the auto-completion.
This brings about questions of why these autofill suggestions were there in the first place and the type of inappropriate videos that would be generated for users to watch.
In a blog post by Tamar Yehoshua, Product Manager of Google Search, she explained, “Autocomplete isn’t an exact science, and the output of the prediction algorithms changes frequently. Predictions are produced based on a number of factors including the popularity and freshness of search terms.”
A Buzzfeed News source familiar with YouTube’s algorithms explained that the “odd asterisk in the word “s*x” suggests behavior that’s consistent with a coordinated campaign to populate YouTube with inappropriate search results.” At the end of the day though, the search results were there and their presence continues to uncover YouTube’s massive child-exploitation problem.
YouTube has repeatedly failed to enforce their Community Guidelines to the necessary level that are in place to protect users, especially children, from lewd, inappropriate, exploitive comments, content and content creators.
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