Amid reports that a pervasive network of pedophiles is operating in the comments of YouTube videos of children, several major companies have paused their ad campaigns. AT&T and toy maker Hasbro have now become the latest advertisers to follow suit, CNBC reported Thursday.
A spokesperson for AT&T told CNBC in a statement that it is yanking its ads from the video platform until Google, YouTube’s parent company, “can protect our brand from offensive content of any kind.” Hasbro also told the site that it was pausing its ad campaigns, adding that it had contacted YouTube about the issue.
Grammarly and Fortnite developer Epic Games both said this week that they had reached out to the company for answers about how YouTube plans to keep predatory behavior off its site. A Nestlé spokesperson also told Gizmodo on Wednesday that “all Nestlé companies in the US have paused advertising on YouTube.”
The responses follow a YouTube video posted Sunday by Matt Watson that outlined in detail the disturbing ways that apparent pedophiles swap information on videos of minors and especially young girls. Watson found that these individuals were sharing contact information and links as well as timestamping videos at times in which children were shown “in compromising positions.”
“Any content—including comments—that endangers minors is abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube,” a spokesperson for YouTube told Gizmodo in a statement on Wednesday. “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.”
Citing sources familiar with the matter, Adweek reported Thursday that YouTube held a conference call with “representatives from all major ad agency holding companies” and other clients in the wake of fresh reports of child exploitation on its platform. Adweek reported that it spoke with one agency individual who raised concerns about YouTube’s ability to manage the problem, particularly given the fact that this is not the first time the company has been forced to confront this issue.
A spokesperson for YouTube said this week that the company had removed hundreds of accounts linked to commenters on the videos in question. In addition to disabling comments on millions of videos of minors, the spokesperson said the company also removed some videos that may put children at risk of predatory behavior.