After months of harsh coverage of the malicious or inappropriate content that keeps popping up on YouTube Kids, ranging from videos of Peppa Pig drinking bleach to David Icke conspiracy rants, Google seems to have partially conceded and is planning on rolling out a human-curated version of the app.
According to BuzzFeed News, an updated version of YouTube Kids will allow parents to check a box and allow only whitelisted content approved by humans instead of the algorithmic feed. In theory, this should prevent age-inappropriate videos from making it into the app, which is targeted at younger children. But a source at YouTube told BuzzFeed that another goal is to create a feed that parents will feel comfortable letting kids watch unsupervised:
The source told BuzzFeed News the whitelisted option of the app could be released within the coming weeks. It’s designed to give parents an option where they can feel comfortable letting their kids watch videos on their own, without worrying that they might end up in the dark corners of the internet.
YouTube did not deny its plans for the app, but it told BuzzFeed News, “We are always working to update and improve YouTube Kids, however we don’t comment on rumor or speculation.”
This and other solutions the company has offered like hiring a vague number of additional moderators might solve some of their creepy kid-targeting video problem. It won’t address other issues with YouTube Kids like consistent accusations the whole operation essentially cashes in on lapses in regulatory oversight to expose children to ad-deluged content that would run into Federal Trade Commission trouble on, say, TV. (There’s a subscription-based ad-free version, but this doesn’t exclude content like toy unboxings that are often uploaded by paid influencers.)
In other words, prior advice not to let YouTube babysit your children stands.
There’s no hint in the BuzzFeed report that YouTube will do anything to demote the algorithmic feed, such as by setting the curated mode as the default option. So the version of YouTube Kids we’ve all come to know and grow very suspicious of will continue to grow. When the company was forced to pay attention to content problems on the app in November 2017, it removed 150,000 videos and demonetized over two million others in just its initial sweep—and keeping them or others off requires constant effort. Curated mode is nice, but considering YouTube Kid’s gross and sprawling underbelly, putting it in a menu probably somewhere isn’t going to cut it.
In any case, we can add “YouTube Kids Curator” to the list of worst jobs in tech in 2018.