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Youtube Businesses Education The Almighty Buck

'Something Is Wrong On the Internet' (medium.com) 365

"Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatize, and abuse children, automatically and at scale, and it forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level," writes James Bridle. From the article: To begin: Kid's YouTube is definitely and markedly weird. I've been aware of its weirdness for some time. Last year, there were a number of articles posted about the Surprise Egg craze. Surprise Eggs videos depict, often at excruciating length, the process of unwrapping Kinder and other egg toys. That's it, but kids are captivated by them. There are thousands and thousands of these videos and thousands and thousands, if not millions, of children watching them. [...] What I find somewhat disturbing about the proliferation of even (relatively) normal kids videos is the impossibility of determining the degree of automation which is at work here; how to parse out the gap between human and machine. The New York Times, last week: Parents and children have flocked to Google-owned YouTube Kids since it was introduced in early 2015. The app's more than 11 million weekly viewers are drawn in by its seemingly infinite supply of clips, including those from popular shows by Disney and Nickelodeon, and the knowledge that the app is supposed to contain only child-friendly content that has been automatically filtered from the main YouTube site. But the app contains dark corners, too, as videos that are disturbing for children slip past its filters, either by mistake or because bad actors have found ways to fool the YouTube Kids algorithms. In recent months, parents like Ms. Burns have complained that their children have been shown videos with well-known characters in violent or lewd situations and other clips with disturbing imagery, sometimes set to nursery rhymes.
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'Something Is Wrong On the Internet'

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 06, 2017 @03:47PM (#55501615)

    "Something is wrong on the Internet" does not immediately translate to "so let me tell you about these absolutely bizarre and potentially illegal Youtube videos."

    • I'm still trying to put a finger on what the problem here is. You might as well say a video of Andy Kaufman reading the Great Gatsby is a form of abuse.

      • If Richard Wagner is played in the background I would agree!

      • I expect is something along the lines of "Happy Tree Friends" and "Don't Hug Me I'm Scared", which on the surface and at the beginning of each video seem like some sort of Kid show, only to turn dark and weird in the third act, are slipping through the filter.
        • by Rei ( 128717 )

          Well, then parents should just turn to shows that they already know only feature wholesome content, such as LazyTown [youtube.com].

    • by mysidia ( 191772 )

      Nothing illegal about fair use respins/parody showing well-known characters in dark situations.

      Google should've known better. If you want to make sure content will be kid-safe, then engage human curators;
      Or at least require trusted creators to self-rate their content before it can appear in YT for kids.

    • It's an XKCD reference.

      • It's an XKCD reference.

        The line was supposed to be, as a response to a woman who asks her frazzled husband at 3 am as he maniacally types away in his mancave, "Somebody is wrong on the Internet!"

    • by ceoyoyo ( 59147 )

      If the idea that somebody would make animations of cartoon characters having sex makes James Bridle question his believes about the Internet... about time?

      These things are not really surprising. If someone trusts some automatic filter Google installed on YouTube to shelter their kids, they should probably be in remedial Internet 101 in the seat next to Bridle.

    • And somehow I knew that this was a msmash post. Must be coincidence.
    • The problem is you can’t trust an algorithm to determine is something is suitable or not. The internet has a lot of content however it is managed by an algorithm so odd gaps get by. Where in the old days all public content was censored by a select group of humans.

  • Ms. Burns (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Osgeld ( 1900440 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @03:49PM (#55501623)

    quit showing your kids stuff you don't like, you are the parent and are responsible for what they consume you dink

    • by Luthair ( 847766 )
      Ultimately it isn't a babysitter and the internet isn't a great place - you should be keeping an eye on what your kid is watching.
    • Yeah, back when I first started on the internet, it was well understood that you didn't post personal info or let kids wonder by themselves on it. It seems now we are on the reverse, where everyone posts everything on the internet, and parents expect the internet to raise their kids for them.
      • by Luthair ( 847766 )
        They cut the cord, what else is going to raise their kids!
        • They cut the cord, what else is going to raise their kids!

          How about you give little Johnny or little Suzie a fscking BOOK to read?

          That's a win on SOOO many fronts....it's what my folks did and sure helped me develop.

    • This is why I watch all of the shows my kids watches on Netflix or Amazon. That way I know what they are showing him and what I may have to explain later. However, Netflix and Amazon have a pretty high bar on quality for content to get on there. I don't have too many problems.
  • I use my magnifier turned backwards to read it.
  • by ffkom ( 3519199 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @03:52PM (#55501645)
    If that is what happened, then please tell me the URLs, it was one of my favourite shows!

    (Here is some older example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?... [youtube.com] )
  • by whyyisthissohard ( 5124263 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @03:53PM (#55501653)

    It's almost like some one is profiting from the effects of these attacks our childrens' minds. Like some one wants people to grow up and be triggered into hyperactivity by certain cues from screaming colors and sounds.
    *glances at media-driven political feud*
    I wonder why???????

  • by Chris Mattern ( 191822 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @03:55PM (#55501669)
  • by Anonymous Coward

    The video titles are a continuous pattern of obscure branded lines and tie-ins: âoeSurprise Play Doh Eggs Peppa Pig Stamper Cars Pocoyo Minecraft Smurfs Kinder Play Doh Sparkle Brilho,â âoeCars Screaminâ(TM) Banshee Eats Lightning McQueen Disney Pixar,â âoeDisney Baby Pop Up Pals Easter Eggs SURPRISE.â As I write this he has done a total of 4,426 videos and counting. With so many viewsâSâ"âSfor comparison, Justin Bieberâ(TM)s official channel

  • Easy To Turn Off (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Turn it off, make your kid go outside. Voila.

  • Boohoo, a kid unfriendly southpark-esc satire slipped through an AI filter: The end of the internet is not nigh, this is a product issue: Google's kiddy product. Author: try applying your logic to tangible goods: a kiddy toy was found to have sharp edges - something is fundamentally wrong with the manufacturing industry.
  • Remember when reading comic books and listening to rock and roll music made us all worship Satan? Good times.
    • The difference is in the statistical processes, so to speak. You hear that song a few times a day and you think it's cool and you play air guitar and what not but mostly you do your kid stuff. With this, the kid is seeing many bot-created hypnotizing repetitive actions over and over. The total "nerve system load", if such thing existed, is way heavier with these videos -- far more structured and laser focused on the kids' brains/minds.

    • by PCM2 ( 4486 )

      Nah, I was too busy playing D&D.

  • by da_Den_man ( 466270 ) <dcruise AT hotcoffee DOT org> on Monday November 06, 2017 @04:02PM (#55501739) Homepage
    With Parents who demand someone else watch and monitor their child's playtime activity? Instead of playing, the parents let the kids watch video's that the parents have not even watched once? That technology is good, but REAL interactions are the BEST? Yeah, something IS wrong indeed
  • Eh... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Gilgaron ( 575091 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @04:03PM (#55501743)
    Next thing you know they'll be on Slashdot and click a link to goatse!
  • by dryriver ( 1010635 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @04:03PM (#55501745)
    So you are creating a Youtube site/app for Kids and are using _algorithms_ to keep the kids safe from bad content? Er, Google... how many tens of Billion dollars does your company have in its coffers? Is it so bloody hard to hire 500 people whose job it is to watch the videos and determine whether they are suitable for kids?
    • by WolfgangVL ( 3494585 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @04:13PM (#55501845)

      Can you imagine the trauma stories that would come out of that office? Have you ever actually sat and watched legit children's programming? I doubt the smut-porn police would last more than a week.

      Seriously though, if you replace the babysitter with a computer, your gonna get trolled. EVERY. TIME.

      • I watch all my kid's shows. As a result, I tend to pick interesting ones with story lines and morals instead of bright colors and songs. I like Blue's Clues, Tumbleleaf, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, (and for an acid trip) Sarah and duck.
    • Or, come on, at least offer an whitelist option [google.com] on the Youtube Kids app?

    • They don't need to pay people. They can allow users to vote up the videos and then allow other users to meta-moderate the votes. In exchange, they can hand out points which will eventually (maybe) be worth something. Google does this now with Google Contribute.
    • Is it so bloody hard to hire 500 people whose job it is to watch the videos and determine whether they are suitable for kids?

      Well, I mean, the government only lets them import so main H-1B workers every year...

  • Many nursery rhymes have gory origins.

    Ring around a rosie, is supposed to be an allegory of the black death.

    Some more such stuff [mentalfloss.com]

  • An example (Score:5, Informative)

    by Harlequin80 ( 1671040 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @04:09PM (#55501791)

    There is a video where gentle music plays and cutesy version of my little ponies slide across the screen into a box full of cotton wool. That is the original version. Goes for about 2 minutes. Sounds like torture when described like that but the kids liked it.

    Someone released a version where about 90 seconds in the box of cotton wool is replaced with a box of nails and the pony is eviscerated by them. There is also a change in the audio to a distorted "Oh Fuck". And it then goes back to the cutesy version.

    No other reason to do that then to get past the automated filters and mess with little kids.

    • Re:An example (Score:4, Insightful)

      by CanHasDIY ( 1672858 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @05:43PM (#55502541) Homepage Journal

      No other reason to do that then to get past the automated filters and mess with little kids.

      Yup, some people are just plain ol' tacky assholes.

      What I don't get is how people think a website that literally anyone can upload a video to is a good babysitter for their kid. I mean, you wouldn't set up a playpen in the middle of Union Station and just leave little Johnny Bastard to the wolves, would you?

      • What I don't get is how people think a website that literally anyone can upload a video to is a good babysitter for their kid

        Because that website's marketing implies that it's kid friendly. It even looks fine to a parent taking a quick pass over the type of content their child is likely to be exposed to. The bad content is deliberately obfuscated by bad actors.

        A better analogy would be advertising a service as a daycare, having a nice front to fool parents, and then leaving little Johnny in a playpen in the middle of Union Station. Yeah, the parent could have tried harder to vet the service caring for their kid, but the service

    • To be quite honest? Sounds like something idiots from 4chan/b/ would do.
  • Regardless of the merits of the detailed examples, a lot of the article just struct me as saying, "If it's not from Disney you can't trust it!" Never mind your local children book authors! They may be up to something no good! CONSUME ONLY DISNEY.

  • by Headw1nd ( 829599 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @04:10PM (#55501801)
    On the contrary, this only strengthens my beliefs about the internet. Like all the rest of it, at the very root is some man jacking off.
  • by cascadingstylesheet ( 140919 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @04:11PM (#55501827)

    ... so it is OK for me to not let my kids have smart phones and for me to police their internet usage?

    Because the rest of the time that supposedly makes us backward freaks.

  • They're your kids. Not mine. And neither I, nor "the internet", nor even a school, is responsible for raising them. You are. If you cannot be assed to take care of your kids, use rubbers.

    • by DRJlaw ( 946416 )

      They're your kids. Not mine. And neither I, nor "the internet", nor even a school, is responsible for raising them. You are. If you cannot be assed to take care of your kids, use rubbers.

      Now, apply that to old people, and watch that attitude do a 180 the moment you become old and exhaust your savings (if you have any).

      • I think the idea is that old people deserve the babysitting, since they've already spent a lifetime contributing to society.

        Now get off my lawn :D

  • by Joao Cordeiro ( 3780295 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @04:30PM (#55501979)
    The internet is like going outside it has war, killers, morons, sex, violence.
    And it should stay that way, as it should reflect all humans in this planet, not just middle class parents.

    The problem is ppl like you that think the internet could replace you as a parent.
    What you should do is to filter what your kind kids see, by seeing it 1st. In the same way you don't send you kid alone to the cinema. And while you do that, try to make your kids to think about what they are, in order to grow a strong personality and be able to face the internet and the street and a younger age.
  • The Internet has been twisted and subverted from being the font of information and a vastly useful tool for humanity in general, into something driven by greed and the very worst that humanity has to offer -- and there's many orders of magnitude more people in the world interested in keeping it that way (and making it more so) than there are people who want to fix the problems. As-is, the Internet may become something not worth having. At current you can ignore the worst of it, but if it reaches the point w
    • The Internet has been twisted and subverted from being the font of information and a vastly useful tool for humanity in general, into something driven by greed and the very worst that humanity has to offer

      So... I take it you were never on Usenet?

  • Missing the Point (Score:5, Insightful)

    by nealric ( 3647765 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @04:40PM (#55502059)

    I think a lot of commentators are missing the point of the original article. The fact that kids might see somewhat inappropriate videos is just a symptom of the underlying problem.

    The problem is that the information we see and content we view is increasingly the result of the interactions of various algorithms. You see this in the way Google inadvertently promotes conspiracy theories. The content itself starts to become more and more automated as every video or article just ends up being a reconfiguration of popular keywords. I suppose the dystopic end-game if this were in an episode of Black Mirror would have everyone completely disassociated from reality as all information they consume is simply generated and and pushed out to them by various bots interacting.

    • tbh I'm not sure how that is a problem.......unless you have some kind of "algorithm = bad" knee-jerk reaction. It's not like human editors choosing what we see is so great.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    If YouTube would put the hosting channel into the URL I could filter based on that.

    I don't know how many times I let my son watch some Etholabs video and then came back and he had clicked on another Minecraft video from someone that was... less in control of their vocabulary.

    If I could have white-listed YouTube.com/Ethoslab instead of YouTube.com, I could have prevented that, but they don't include the channel in the URL so I can't.

  • You must be new. Welcome to the Internet.

  • Would you let your kids out in the red light district by themselves on a Friday night? No? Well...WTF are you using the internet as a substitute for parenting then? Yes? WTF were you not sterilized by court order?
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @05:18PM (#55502333) Journal

    Big company decides that bots are "good enough". They aren't. That's all this is. As bad as it is to sit your kids in front of the old fashioned tube, as much as you might complain about the FCC, there was pretty much zero chance that we were going to see Oscar, Big Bird, and the Count going at it in a 3-way. That's because real human adults were in charge, and were paid what they were worth. The Internet isn't broken. A bunch of greedy pigs just paid some cheap coders far less to create something much less safe, then a bunch of lazy parents sat their kids down in front of it. The results were predictable.

  • by wjcofkc ( 964165 ) on Monday November 06, 2017 @05:39PM (#55502501)
    YouTube is going nuts thought policing conservatives while this kind of garbage intended for kids gets right by? Yes, I watched some of the videos in question, and they are disturbing. I find it absolutely astounding that Google\YouTube puts human effort into censoring political material for adults, and then turns around and says it's up to adults to police the kids section. What the actual fuck?
  • If you're going to let your children watch youtube unattended, you'll have to first sit them down and give them a talk about the dangers of lighting your own farts. Maybe make them watch a video of someone pooping their pants while trying. It's for their own good.
  • Nothing is wrong with the internet. But I've long held the belief that something is wrong with people.

  • I'm pretty sure that's what they're referring to, is probably porn type material with what normally are children's characters, or story-lines with lewdness added.

    And while I'm the type of person who thinks if something someone else enjoys isn't hurting anything, then fine. But I think some of this type of material is banned in some countries, and perhaps this is why, because potential for accidental exposure for children. There's some insane shit out there that you just can't unsee once you've seen it. A

  • ...you mean I can't just plop my kid in a chair, throw my ipad at them and tell them to watch youtube until I'm ready to deal with them?

    Well, fuck, why didn't anyone tell me that BEFORE I started producing womb fruit?

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