Mixed Medium

YouTube deletes dirty searches: Read this twice before sharing a child's photo

We can no longer hold just technology responsible for it.

 |  Mixed Medium  |  4-minute read |   28-11-2017
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One billion hours. That is the amount of video watched on YouTube every single day - a lot of it showing children. And according to recent investigations by the BBC and The Times, thousands of predatory accounts are being used to post sexually explicit comments on children's videos, yet again proving that child safety content moderation on the internet is not foolproof.

Given the nature of the ever-evolving internet, it is naive to think online threats from paedophiles and child sex abusers are new, but they are a spiralling horror - and we can no longer hold just technology responsible for it, as the YouTube controversy confirms.

Unsafe on YouTube

The BBC and The Times had reported last week that the video-sharing website's autocomplete feature, which suggests most-typed words, had registered paedophilic phrases - including variations of "how to have s*x with your kids".

Following the news, the video-sharing platform started an investigation to remove the objectionable clips — some of them showing children in states of undress — and sexually explicit comments. YouTube has promised zero tolerance for inappropriate content, stating that it had toughened its approach to "protect families on YouTube and YouTube kids".

What triggered equal panic was that the platform also ran ads of leading brands such as Adidas and Mars alongside exploitative videos that targeted children. The brands promptly pulled out their ads from YouTube and Google. Yet, what can they do about the validation and support their product inadvertently provides to inappropriate content, often unsuitable and harmful for some ages?

YouTube's advertising revenue is expected to cross $20.4 billion in 2018. Surely, accountability must grow with the video-sharing website's rising income. Therefore, brands must pressure YouTube to target audiences who have subscribed to verified content or specific channels.

They can put ethics before revenue as popular businesses to support child safety content moderation.

Kids are vulnerable as ever. Yes, Charlie bit me videos too

On an average, 400 hours-worth videos are uploaded on YouTube every minute, so it is nigh impossible for the website to develop an algorithm that separates, in a matter of seconds, illegal content from what fits community standards.

In fact, statistics for the internet in general make one sick to the stomach. According to UK-based Internet Watch Foundation that records data to tackle child sex abuse images and videos online, in 2016, 57,335 URLs were confirmed as containing child sexual abuse imagery, having links to the imagery, or, worse, advertising it. Fifty-three per cent children shown in those images were aged 10 or younger.

That even news groups contributed to preying on young lives, with 2,487 media reports carrying disturbing visuals of children, shows that we are part of the problem.

Paedophilia is a pathological disorder whose threats will continue to grow as more people have access to the internet, open up to technology and share pictures of children.

That any lurking stranger on the internet can see their children's pictures, watch their videos and even save them for later viewing doesn't immediately alarm parents today.

yt_112817074829.jpgOn an average, 400 hour-worth videos are uploaded on YouTube every minute. Photo: Reuters

Abusers derive sexual gratification from visuals that may or may not depict your child - but help the very act of sexual predation thrive.

The damage wrought on young lives because of our utter lack of caution is often irreparable. It's stunting and lifelong. It doesn't just take away a child's best years, but also makes her more vulnerable to sexual exploitation later in life.

So, is self-censorship the answer? No, regulation is. Here's what you could do:

1. Moderate your social media feed; beware of what pictures you share publicly. Learn ways to restrict who sees your photos or is allowed to download them.

2. From Facebook to YouTube to Instagram, every social platform provides for protected accounts. Use the feature to avoid misuse.

3. Educate yourself about forms of online threats and how to report inappropriate content. Read up and follow the latest internet trends for child safety on the web. In India, you can report pictures of child sex abuse victims to IWF Aarambh India Reporting Portal.

4. Children are the most vulnerable internet users: alert them on how not to use the web. Tell them to report any suspicious or inappropriate content they see or watch to a trusted adult. Use search engines and video-sharing platforms made for children; for example, http://www.kids.net.au/, YouTube Kids and Jellies.

5. If you know an adolescent is using the internet, introduce her to safe surfing and always have open conversations about any explicit content she may come across on the web.

Also read: Fortis bills dead patient's parents over Rs 15 lakh for dengue care: Why private hospitals bleed us

Writer

Charumathi Sankaran Charumathi Sankaran @edit_err

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