Advocacy Groups Slap YouTube Kids App for Inappropriate Content


Two child- and consumer-advocacy groups have filed an updated complaint with the FTC arguing that they found content featuring porn, pedophilia, and drug and alocohol use on the family-friendly app.

Two advocacy groups have filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission claiming that the new YouTube Kids app isn't as family friendly as the name implies. 

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and Center for Digital Democracy sent a letter to the FTC on Tuesday asserting that "the app is rife with videos that would not meet anyone's definition of 'family friendly.'" The groups claim that during a review of the app, which YouTube markets as a safe place for children under 5 to watch online videos, they found explicit sexual language, unsafe behavior, graphic discussions about family violence, pornography and child suicide, jokes about pedophilia, drug use, and advertisements for alcoholic beverages. 

The Google-owned streamer launched YouTube Kids in February on Android devices to make it easier for children and their parents to find family-friendly content such as episodes of Sesame Street, Reading Rainbow and Thomas the Tank Engine. YouTube worked with children's- and family-advocacy groups including Common Sense Media and The Internet Keep Safe Coalition to test the free app prior to its launch. 

But in April a coalition of consumer groups urged the FTC to investigate the app, arguing that it mixed "commercial and other content in ways that are deceptive and unfair to children and would not be permitted to be shown on broadcast or cable television." 

The letter sent May 19 resulted from a follow-up investigation conducted by CCFC and CDD in which the groups claim to "have discovered that Google's deceptive practices toward parents are even more widespread and pervasive than we documented in our initial request for investigation." 

A video clip showcases a number of videos that they say they found through the app, including cartoon Animaniacs, a parody of the film Casino featuring Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, a Budweiser commercial, a TedX talk about suicide and Jimmy Kimmel's interview with President Barack Obama about the legalization of marijuana. 

A YouTube spokeswoman responded to the claims with the following statement. "We work to make the videos in YouTube Kids as family-friends as possible and take feedback very seriously. We appreciate people drawing problematic content to our attention, and make it possible for anyone to flag a video. Flagged videos are manually reviewed 24/7 and any videos that don't belong in the app are removed. For parents who want a more restricted experience, we recommend that they turn off search."

The YouTube Kids app finds content through algorithms and user feedback and has a review process for content that has been flagged as inappropriate for children. By turning off search, as the YouTube spokeswoman suggests, parents can eliminate recommended or related videos that would typically appear within the app or at the end of a video.  

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