Following consumer outrage over YouTube’s handling of disturbing videos aimed at children on its network, the company has now banned one of the most controversial children’s channels it hosted, Toy Freaks. The channel, the 68th largest on YouTube with more than 8.5 million subscribers, has often been criticized for its vile and seemingly exploitative videos featuring a father and daughters, which many say bordered on abuse.
YouTube tells TechCrunch that the ban is part of a new tightening around the enforcement of its child endangerment policies. It says it will now remove videos to protect “viewers, downloaders and children” when the company receives signals of concern.
The removal is part of a larger review of similar content on YouTube, the company also said.
If you are not familiar with ToyFreaks, consider yourself lucky.
Videos played on the channel included the father filming the daughters in obvious distress, screaming or crying, for example. In one video, the father follows his daughter into the bathroom, as she cries with a mouthful of blood from a falling tooth. In another, he sneaks into the bathroom and throws a bucket of frogs in the tub while the girls bathe in order to scare them off. Other videos show school-aged children dressed as babies with pacifiers in their mouths or spitting at each other.
The videos are presumably scripted and focus on crass humor, but they have always bothered a number of viewers as it is not clear to what extent a child can knowingly consent to participate in videos like this. It also seems that children are sometimes in distress and this is used as fodder for opinions. (Good way, dad.)
The channel was specifically mentioned in James Bridle’s recent viral Medium article as one of the more disturbing examples of videos aimed at kids that seem to push the limits. Notably, it has long been one of the origin points for many copy videos that are now spreading on YouTube.
Today, Toy Freaks is gone.
In its place is a message stating “This account has been terminated for violating YouTube video guidelines.”
The ban follows further action taken by YouTube following Bridle’s analysis of the YouTube issue and a New York Times report.
Much of Bridle’s post was about “Kids’ YouTube” – meaning video content aimed at kids on YouTube – and not necessarily the standalone YouTube Kids mobile app.
Today’s YouTube can be scary and weird for kids. They are often targeted with inappropriate content thanks to video creators who use YouTube’s recommendation technology to increase their views, even when children are injured.
And while YouTube Kids (the app) offers basic filtering (and a way to turn off search), plenty of disturbing videos have crept in, the NYT reported.
In response to these reports, YouTube implemented a new policy to limit the age of inappropriate videos, such as those that inappropriately use family characters, so that they do not make it to the YouTube Kids app.
However, banning a popular YouTube channel outright is a much bigger step for Google.
Tubefilter and The Outline were the first to spot the withdrawal of Toy Freaks.
The Outline also noted that KiddieToysReview, which had nearly one million subscribers, had two clips removed, one of which had over 62 million views. And Freak Family Vlogs, which is Toy Freaks’ sister channel, has been reduced to a single video, the report also said.
Google responded to a request for comment on its actions with the following statement:
âWe take the safety of children very seriously and have clear policies against endangering children. We recently reinforced the application of these rules to fight against content featuring minors when we receive signals of concern. It’s not always clear that the content downloader intends to break our rules, but we can always remove their videos to help protect viewers, downloaders, and children. We have terminated the Toy Freaks channel for violating our policies. We will be conducting a broader review of related content in collaboration with Trusted Flaggers experts. “
Greg Chism (of Toy Freaks) made the following statement:
Earlier this week, YouTube shared with me concerns that my videos were attracting viewers who did not have the best interests of children at heart. Many members of the YouTube community have expressed similar concerns, and their willingness to reach out to protect my children and all children from exploitation strengthens my confidence in the YouTube community. Victoria, Annabelle and I would like to thank our supporters as my daughters have had the opportunity to develop their creativity and confidence over the past few years. Their future is bright. While it is troubling to me that anyone who finds inappropriate pleasure in our video skits, I deeply appreciate YouTube’s concern for my family and could not be happier to have had this remarkable experience.