After BuzzFeed News provided YouTube with dozens of examples of videos — with millions of views — that depict children in disturbing and abusive situations, the company is cracking down.
Across YouTube, an unsettling trend has emerged: Accounts are publishing disturbing and exploitative videos aimed at and starring children in compromising, predatory, or creepy situations — and racking up millions of views.
BuzzFeed News has found a number of videos, many of which appear to originate from eastern Europe, that feature young children, often in revealing clothing, placed in vulnerable scenarios. In many instances, they're restrained with ropes or tape and sometimes crying or in visible distress. In other videos, the children are kidnapped, or made to 'play doctor' with an adult. The videos frequently include gross-out themes like injections, eating feces, or needles. Many come from YouTube 'verified' channels and have tens of millions of views. After BuzzFeed News brought these videos to the attention of YouTube, they were removed.
In recent weeks, YouTube has faced criticism after reports about unsettling animated videos and bizarre content, which were aimed at children using family-friendly characters, and some of which was not caught by YouTube Kids’ filters. All of the videos reviewed by BuzzFeed News were live-action, ostensibly set up by adults and featuring children. Taken together, they make up a vast, disturbing, and wildly popular universe of videos that — until recently — existed unmoderated by the platform.
That appears to be changing. On Tuesday afternoon, BuzzFeed News contacted YouTube regarding a number of verified accounts — each with millions of subscribers — with hundreds of disturbing videos showing children in distress. As of Wednesday morning, all the videos provided by BuzzFeed News, as well as the accounts, were suspended for violating YouTube's rules. YouTube told BuzzFeed News that the deletions were part of a scheduled effort to combat this type of content and that some of the accounts and videos provided by BuzzFeed News were already scheduled to be purged.
"In the last week we terminated over 50 channels and have removed thousands of videos under these guidelines," YouTube said in a statement. All of the videos featured below were still up as of Tuesday evening.
According to YouTube, the deletions are part of a bigger effort to weed out exploitative content on the platform. Last week the company terminated ToyFreaks, a massively popular account run by Greg Chism for videos that bordered on child abuse. The account featured videos of Chism's daughters screaming in fear, bathing, pretending to be babies, spitting up food, being force-fed, and 'peeing.' The account had 8 million followers around the time YouTube shut it down.
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