Researching YouTube Story Made Reporter 'Physically Ill'

Videos of young girls were inappropriately recommended
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 4, 2019 11:47 AM CDT
Updated Jun 8, 2019 7:00 AM CDT
A YouTube sign is shown across the street from the company's offices in San Bruno, Calif.   (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)

(Newser) – Earlier this year, YouTube made a change in policy designed to curb pedophiles—it disabled comments on most videos featuring children after learning that predators were making use of the comment section. Now, however, a report in the New York Times suggests that the pedophile problem is far from over. The details:

  • Algorithm issue: Harvard researchers found that YouTube's algorithm was recommending innocent videos of children inappropriately, raising fears predators could be viewing them. This relates to the feature—all-important in terms of traffic to YouTube and its content providers—that recommends a video to watch next as another video is ending.
  • Sickening, literally: In tweeting about the story, the Times' Max Fisher first summed it up thusly: "YouTube’s algorithm has been curating home movies of unwitting families into a catalog of semi-nude kids, we found." Later, he added this: "I found reporting this emotionally straining, far more so than I'd anticipated. Watching the videos made me physically ill and I've been having regular nightmares. I only mention it because I cannot fathom what this is like for parents whose kids are swept up."

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