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Epic Games has pulled all Fortnite pre-roll advertising from YouTube after it came to light that the advertisements were playing before videos which child predators use to communicate. These nefarious videos have been appearing on the massive site for some time now, apparently manipulating the infamous YouTube algorithm to exploit young children and create a shadow network of predators.
In light of the discovery that ads for Fortnite had been playing before some of these videos, Epic Games has completely removed the ads from the platform and reached out directly to YouTube’s parent company, Google, for a statement on how the company will handle the issue. A spokesperson from Epic Games contacted The Verge regarding the pulling of the ads, stating that its internal marketing team is in talks with Google and YouTube about how it will proceed on the platform.
Following in kind, Disney and Nestle have both also announced today that they will be pulling advertising from YouTube until a solution to the predator problem can be reached.
The ads in question are the pre-roll type, the short clips that often play before a video begins, and other major companies such as Grammarly and even Google itself have also been found playing before these predatorial videos. The videos are not pornographic but do feature young children engaging in exploitable actions and are often flooded with comments from predators who use timestamps to mark portions of the videos for other users.
In an extensive Reddit thread, user Mat Watson detailed how these predators are using the YouTube algorithm to contact one another, highlight videos that feature children in sexually exploitative ways and even share access to child pornography. By using fresh, vanilla accounts, Watson was able to gain access to such content through just a few different videos in less than 10 minutes. These videos are often mundane and deemed appropriate for general advertising by YouTube’s algorithm, which is why advertisements for child-friendly content such as Fortnite can be found on them,
A spokesperson for YouTube has told The Verge that the company finds these kinds of comments and users abhorrent and that the YouTube policies are in place to prevent such behavior on the platform. With that said, the spokesperson acknowledged that there is still a way to go in shutting down these users entirely and that the company is working as fast as possible to do so.
This is not the first time the YouTube platform has been embroiled in a gaming related scandal. In December 2018, hugely popular YouTuber PewDiePie used his then nearly 80-million subscribe base to endorse an anti-semitic channel, which was just the latest in a string of racially insensitive moves made by the content creator on the platform.