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YouTube to block disturbing videos featuring popular children's characters

Matthew Field
Disturbing videos of Peppa Pig could be blocked for younger users - YouTube

YouTube has announced a clampdown on videos that show popular children's TV characters in violent and frightening scenes after it emerged that hundreds of disturbing videos featured on the website.

The online video service, owned by Google, said "inappropriate use of family entertainment characters" would be restricted to adults when they are reported by users.

Investigations have found reams of bizarre videos depicting children's characters in morbid situations appearing on YouTube and on its children-only app, YouTube Kids.

They included Peppa Pig in frightening situations, such as drinking bleach or getting teeth pulled out at the dentist. Other videos include clips of Elsa from Disney’s Frozen and Spiderman fighting other characters in animated clips, while some have sexually suggestive themes.

Under the new rules, such videos will be deemed age-inappropriate, being removed from the YouTube Kids app and blocked from logged-out users or those aged under 18 on the main website.

The bootleg version of Peppa Pig at the dentist Credit: YouTube

YouTube already bans such videos from making money by running adverts before them. "Earlier this year, we updated our policies to make content featuring inappropriate use of family entertainment characters ineligible for monetisation,” YouTube's director of policy Juniper Downs said. 

"We’re in the process of implementing a new policy that age restricts this content in the YouTube main app when flagged. Age-restricted content is automatically not allowed in YouTube Kids. The YouTube team is made up of parents who are committed to improving our apps and getting this right."

YouTube will age block some videos using family characters Credit: Reuters

YouTube already filters out inappropriate content for under 13s, such as sexually-suggestive videos or those containing violence, but the process is largely automated and has seen some videos slip through the net. 

The new policy will see it rely more on moderators and viewers to actively flag inappropriate videos. However, there continue to be concerns that videos will not be caught, since the disturbing themes in the videos do not immediately appear.

Over the summer, anonymous members of YouTube's own Trusted Flaggers team, the volunteers who monitor the site for harmful content, claimed the Google-owned giant was "systematically failing" to protect children. YouTube says the main website should not be used by under-13s.