There are nefarious individuals and organizations intent on exploiting us and our kids in order to take our money, advance their causes, and commit crimes when we use popular Internet sites. It’s become the way of life in the Internet world. One recourse for Internet sites that are being used for exploitation is effectively policing their sites. But according to a recent report by the BBC, in spite of numerous complaints, Google’s YouTube is failing to prevent children from being abused and exploited on the site.
The YouTube video-sharing site uses volunteers, called Trusted Flaggers, to look for and identify issues of concern and notify the company. According to the article, Trusted Flagger members have reported thousands of incidents of child exploitation to Google, yet the company has failed to respond to the vast majority of complaints.
One volunteer noted that none of his 9,000 reports, filed since last December, have been acted upon. Another group of Trusted Flaggers found that over a recent 60-day period, they made 526 reports, yet received responses from just 15.
What sort of items were reported? They identified people that left objectionable comments on the videos made by young teenagers and children. Most of the videos are innocuous, including tutorials or discussions about movies, actors, or friends. They are not suggestive, nor is there any nudity. The complaints relate to comments left on these videos that are often sexually explicit, contain graphic sexual references, or attempt to get the children to communicate privately for the intent of exploitation. Some even ask the children to make nude videos.
What’s disappointing to the Trusted Flaggers is the lack of action by YouTube, even though the reports they’ve made are accurate more than 90 percent of the time. While the Trusted Flaggers are unpaid volunteers, they include individuals from law enforcement agencies, child protective agencies, and parents who are trying to protect their children.
The group estimates there are many thousands of potential predators using YouTube to contact young people. One Trusted Flagger noted in the article that “there is no reliable way for a concerned parent, child in danger, or anyone else to reliably report and get action on a predatory channel.”
YouTube noted they have a “zero-tolerance policy for sexual content involving minors. Engaging in any type of activity that sexualizes minors — including leaving inappropriate comments — will immediately result in an account termination.”
But the Flaggers noted that this hasn’t translated into action, and the problem is getting worse.
In the meantime, what can we do as parents? Follow what your kids are doing online, just as you’d follow what they do off line and out of the house. Let them know that meeting a stranger online is just as forbidden as doing it off line. They should never disclose personal information, including their name and location. If you come across an incident comment, contact YouTube and report it anyway.
- Log in to your YouTube account.
- Below the player for the video you want to flag, click More.
- In the drop-down menu, choose Report.
- Select the reason for flagging that best fits the violation.
With Google being one of the world’s most profitable companies, there’s really no excuse for not policing their sites more effectively. We do have the right to expect they will keep their sites safe.