A number of leading brands have reportedly withdrawn digital advertising accounts with YouTube amid mounting concern that the video sharing platform has been co-opted by paedophiles to build surreptitious networks.
Among those bailing out are food and drink multinational Nestle as well as US software developer Epic Games, producer of the viral hit Fortnite and owned by China's Tencent. Entertainment giant Disney is also thought to be among their number.
The trio’s exit follows the release of a video created by an online blogger which highlighted how ‘soft-core pedophiles’ were able to communicate with each other below the radar via the comments sections under innocent videos of young children, occasionally even sharing links to hard-core pornography.
Google’s algorithms work in such a way as to push similar content to these users, with many carrying adverts for household brands.
Alphabet-owned YouTube has responded quickly to the scandal, closing down over 400 channels which hosted inappropriate comments in two days, with illegal content being referred to The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It has also disabled comments of millions of more videos depicting minors.
A spokesperson said: “Any content — including comments — that endangers minors are abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube.”
This isn’t YouTube’s first brush with the scandal, with the platform having weathered a previous advertiser exodus in 2017 precipitated by prior fears of brands having their names sullied through association with inappropriate material.