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YouTube increasing oversight of 'family-friendly' content

by Phil McCausland /
A girl watches a video on Youtube on a computer on February 27, 2013 in Chisseaux near Tours, central France.Alain Jocard / AFP/Getty Images file

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YouTube announced on Wednesday that it would be taking a harder look at videos marketed toward children to ensure that they are "family-friendly."

Johanna Wright, vice president of product management at YouTube, said in a statement that the website had reviewed how potentially inappropriate content was being marketed toward children and shared steps they were taking to address the issue.

"In recent months, we've noticed a growing trend around content on YouTube that attempts to pass as family-friendly, but is clearly not," Wright said. "While some of these videos may be suitable for adults, others are completely unacceptable, so we are working to remove them from YouTube."

Buzzfeed News first reported on the trend that some YouTube accounts were making and peddling strange and unsettling videos for children. In some, kids would be placed in discomfiting and peculiar situations or positions. Many of these videos have garnered millions of views.

"Across the board we have scaled up resources to ensure that thousands of people are working around the clock to monitor, review and make the right decisions across our ads and content policies," Wright said. "These latest enforcement changes will take shape over the weeks and months ahead as we work to tackle this evolving challenge."

The video website said that it has all ready shut down more than 50 channels in response, and added that it would pursue new tactics to protect families.

Related: Should Washington begin regulating Facebook? Some lawmakers say yes.

First, Wright said that YouTube plans to stick closer to its community guidelines, which it expanded to allow for greater enforcement "around removing content featuring minors that may be endangering a child." As part of that effort, the company plans to use machine learning technology and automated tools to restrict content that may contain family-friendly characters but also has "mature themes or adult humor."

Wright said the website will next remove ads from those videos and channels it believes are inappropriately targeting families. According to the statement, YouTube, which is owned by Google, has stripped ads from 3 million videos thanks to this policy and plans to remove ads from 500,000 more.

The company will also block comments it deems inappropriate that feature children, give family-friendly creators content guidance, and contact and maintain a relationship with experts such as its "Trusted Flaggers" to clarify what kind of content is inappropriate, Wright said.

"We’re wholly committed to addressing these issues and will continue to invest the engineering and human resources needed to get it right," Wright said. "As a parent and as a leader in this organization, I’m determined that we do."

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