YouTube advertisers are boycotting the site once again, after a slew of videos showing children in their underwear, urinating on themselves and being tormented by their parents were uncovered by the media.
The boycott is being branded as another “YouTube adpocalypse,” with the likes of Deutsche Band and Mars pulling their advertising from the site in response to the child exploitation videos it has been hosting. The problem stemmed from a channel called ‘Toy Freaks,’ which had amassed over 8.5 million subscribers and was one of the top 100 most-viewed channels on the site before being shut down. The channel uploaded hundreds of videos depicting a father recording skits featuring his children, which many believe crossed several boundaries into child exploitation.
The content of the channel was first flagged by writer James Bridle in a post on Medium. He wrote: “Toy Freaks specialises in gross-out situations, as well as activities which many, many viewers feel border on abuse and exploitation, if not cross the line entirely, including videos of the children vomiting and in pain. Toy Freaks is a YouTube verified channel, whatever that means.”
YouTube responded to the post by terminating the channel, but the problem still persists as many other videos on the site contain similar footage, and continued to be supported with advertisements. A new Times report accused YouTube of “funding pedophile habits,” listing a number of brands whose ads continue to be featured on the videos: “BT, Adidas, Deutsche Bank, eBay, Amazon, Mars, Diageo and Talktalk are among dozens of brands whose adverts appear on the videos, which are published on the Google-owned platform. Many have gained millions of views by showing young girls filming themselves in underwear, doing the splits, brushing their teeth or rolling around in bed.”
In response to these criticisms, YouTube said in a statement: “There shouldn’t be any ads running on this content, and we are working urgently to fix this.” However, brands are now pulling out of the site as a result of the controversy, leading to the company changing its guidelines. This update was outlined in a blog post, though advertisers are still not happy about the site’s approach to harmful content. In a statement released to Sky News, a spokesperson for Mars said:
“We are shocked and appalled to see that our adverts have appeared alongside such exploitative and inappropriate content. It is in stark contrast to who we are and what we believe. We have taken the decision to immediately suspend all our online advertising on YouTube and Google globally. We have stringent guidelines and processes in place and are working with Google and our media buying agencies to understand what went wrong. Until we have confidence that appropriate safeguards are in place, we will not advertise on You Tube and Google.”
The last YouTube adpocalypse saw major brands such as Pepsi, Verizon and Walmart pulling their ads from the site as a result of it displaying “derogatory content.” This mass boycott caused YouTube to tighten its advertising guidelines, demonetizating a slew of videos and causing uproar among its community after these changes caused its content creators to earn less money. More major advertisers pulling their support from the site will inevitably cause ad revenue to decrease once again, with YouTube continuing to struggle with appeasing both major brands and those who make a living on the site.