In context: YouTube announced that it has banned over 400 channels and deleted "tens of millions" of comments in response to a massive child exploitation ring suspected to exist across the platform. YouTube was forced to act after major advertisers, such as Epic Games and Disney, began pulling advertisements from videos after evidence surfaced of malicious comments and videos being tied to a coordinated effort to exploit children.
The decision by YouTube was spurred by major advertisers, such as Disney and Nestle, pulling advertising from the platform.
The initial discovery of the child exploitation issue is credited to blogger Mark Watson, who posted a clip demonstrating how comments were being used to timestamp videos containing children performing physical acts such as gymnastics. This behavior was inadvertently reinforced by YouTube, since its algorithm would then suggest similar videos to the user.
News of other major advertisers bailing has begun to trickle in, with Epic Games confirming that it too will stop running pre-roll ads on YouTube.
YouTube was finally prompted to act by content creator Philip DeFranco, who posted a video highlighting the unchecked exploitation and got a response from YouTube. In their response, they stated they disabled the channels and relevant comments, and reported the users making the comments to law enforcement:
UPDATE: @YouTube @YTCreators left a comment and provided an update on what they’ve done to combat horrible people on the site in the last 48 hours.— Philip DeFranco (@PhillyD) February 21, 2019
TLDR: Disabled comments on tens of millions of videos. Terminated over 400 channels. Reported illegal comments to law enforcement. pic.twitter.com/zFHFfkX9FD
The platform issued an additional statement to Bloomberg, stating:
"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 violative comments."
YouTube has promised the companies involved that they will refund all ad spend that appeared on the videos and channels affected by this decision, which amounted to less than $8,000 in total.