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YouTube takes action as advertisers leave following concerns pedophiles exploited the platform

Posted: 10:12 AM, Feb 22, 2019
Updated: 2019-02-22 10:12:40-05

YouTube said on Thursday it has taken aggressive action after a video creator accused the platform of aiding pedophiles in finding clips of young girls. The statement comes as major companies, including AT&T, Nestle and Epic Games, announced they are  pausing advertising  on YouTube over the concerns.

"Any content — including comments — that endangers minors is abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube," a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement provided to CNN Business. "We took immediate action by deleting accounts and channels, reporting illegal activity to authorities and disabling comments on tens of millions of videos that include minors."

"There's more to be done, and we continue to work to improve and catch abuse more quickly," the YouTube spokesperson added.

The concerns were initially raised by video creator Matt Watson.

Watson, in a video viewed nearly 2 million times since Sunday, said YouTube's algorithm had created a "worm hole" that allowed pedophiles to easily find — through the website's recommended videos feature — clips of young children performing activities such as gymnastics or yoga.

After locating the videos, which appeared to be recorded with innocent intentions, Watson highlighted how some users left comments that noted the specific times in which the children were seen in "compromising positions."

Watson said that some of the videos being exploited featured  advertising from major brands .

The YouTube spokesperson told CNN Business the company reviewed and removed thousands of inappropriate comments, terminated over 400 channels, and removed dozens of videos during the past 48 hours.

Additionally, the YouTube spokesperson said the company had reported illegal comments to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children so the organization could work with the appropriate authorities.

This is not the first time YouTube has found itself in hot water from companies whose advertisements ran before inappropriate content.

A  CNN investigation in April  2018 found that advertisements for more than 300 companies and organizations ran on YouTube channels promoting white nationalists, Nazis, pedophilia, conspiracy theories and North Korean propaganda.

This latest episode is a reminder that YouTube continues to struggle to police its own platform against the rules and policies it outlines in its terms of service.