Google’s kid-friendly app YouTube Kids shows adult videos

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Two consumer groups found some pretty appalling adult content in Google’s seemingly kid-friendly video app, YouTube Kids.

The two groups allege that “Google is fooling parents into promoting YouTube Kids as a safe place to explore for children under the age of five when in reality the app is full of videos that don’t match. the person’s definition of “family friendly”. “

They are not joking. The groups – the Center for Digital Democracy and the Campaign for an ad-free childhood – edited a two-minute video of clips they found through the YouTube Kids app in one day.

Examples of inappropriate content:

  • An episode of Animaniacs where cartoon animals sing the words “piss”, “fellatio”, “penis” and more;
  • a dancer demonstrating how to do the Michael Jackson “crotch grip” movement;
  • a Budweiser ad;
  • a TED speaker discussing his first suicide attempt as a teenager;
  • President Obama joking with Jimmy Kimmel about marijuana;
  • a red wine guide;
  • a demonstration of how to light a match and use it to ignite a pile of matches;
  • Sarah Jessica Parker in a puffy white dress, kicking a window and sounding the alarm;
  • a person on stage recounting how “many children will die today as a result of physical abuse by their own parents”.

Here is the video montage (attention: adult content, of course):

Google describes its Android app, which debuted on February 23, as “kid-friendly” and “for curious little minds,” but doesn’t say exactly what age it is targeting. It’s safe to say the designers were probably thinking of kids under 5: the app’s home screen includes favorites from kids like Peppa Pig, Wallace and Gromit, Sesame Street, Caillou, and Teletubbies. There’s a “music” tab with kid-friendly music, and a “learning” tab where kids can watch videos that teach them science, how to do things, and more.

Above: Some searches will not work on YouTube Kids.

Image credit: screenshot

But there is a search button, and this is how kids can find their way to unauthorized content on YouTube. I was able to find the red wine and pairing videos in just a few minutes. Some search terms are blocked: you cannot search for “sex”, for example.

Note: Parents can turn off the search feature in the app’s password protected settings screen, but it is enabled by default.

You can also flag videos as inappropriate: just tap the video to remove it from full screen mode, tap the three vertical dots at the top right of the screen, then tap the ‘report’ button. However, videos remain accessible in the app after being flagged.

A YouTube spokesperson provided this statement to VentureBeat, which essentially reiterates the basic functionality of the app:

We strive to make YouTube Kids videos as family-friendly as possible and take comments very seriously. Anyone can report a video and those videos are manually reviewed 24/7 and any videos that do not belong to the app are removed. For parents who want a more restricted experience, we recommend that they turn off search.

Other unsavory tips that consumer groups found, according to their press release:

  • Videos of dangerous behaviors such as playing with lighted matches, shooting a nail gun, juggling knives, tasting battery acid, and tying a noose
  • A rude parody of the movie Casino with Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street
  • Graphic discussions between adults on domestic violence, pornography and child suicide
  • Jokes about pedophilia and drug use
  • Advertising for alcoholic products

The groups announced their findings today and are updating a complaint they filed with the Federal Trade Commission on April 7. complaint (.pdf) alleged that YouTube Kids included inappropriate advertising and marketing material for young children, who could not distinguish between educational content and advertising. For example, they claim, many videos confusingly mix ads with other content, or endorse toys, candy, or other products in violation of the FTC’s paid mentions policies.

That’s exactly the position that GamesBeat editor Jason Wilson took in February: YouTube Kids is half-baked because it doesn’t protect kids from the real threat: ads.

Updated at 9:55 p.m. with the statement from YouTube.

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