YouTube Kids slammed again for improper content

Child-protection groups lobby FTC for action as lewd videos found on app targeted at five-year-olds

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YouTube Kids slammed again for improper content
By  Stephen McBride Published  May 21, 2015

Google-owned YouTube's "Kids" app has come under renewed criticism from consumer groups for funnelling inappropriate content to youngsters, The Washington Post reported.

YouTube Kids is supposed to give parents tight control over content displayed to children. The service is targeted at users under the age of five, and allows adults to block the search function and report inappropriate content from within the app.

But child-safety advocates have found several instances of content that they believe should have been filtered out by the service, including lewd cartoons and ads for alcohol.

"In reviews on Google Play and iTunes, parents report finding pornographic cartoons, videos laced with profanity, and videos featuring graphic violence," reads a letter filed by the Centre for Digital Democracy (CDD) and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC).

The letter was sent to the US Federal Trade Commission, accompanied by a two-minute video, showing a montage of inappropriate material found on the Kids service.

According to Jeff Chester, executive director of CDD, and Josh Golin, executive director of CCFC, YouTube Kids showed as many as 13 ads for Budweiser beer and several videos about wine. Other content included profanity-laced cartoons.

"The app is rife with videos that would not meet anyone's definition of 'family friendly'," the letter read.

YouTube responded by insisting it took feedback "very seriously" and that it was working to make the Kids service "as family-friendly as possible".

"Anyone can flag a video and these videos are manually reviewed 24/7 and any videos that don't belong in the app are removed," said a spokesperson for the video-streaming service. "For parents who want a more restricted experience, we recommend that they turn off search."

But the advocates argue that Google should already have technology sufficient to render a clean service for children.

"If they can serve the Fortune 500 their ads with precision, pinpoint targeting, they can create an algorithm and review process so people don't figure out how to juggle chainsaws," said Chester.

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