YouTube outlines "approach to protect families" following criticism

YouTube says it's trying to make the video site safer for kids. 

After recent criticism that YouTube is not doing enough to crack down on disturbing and exploitative videos aimed at children, the Google-owned video service on Wednesday announced a five-point plan to "toughen" its approach on family-friendly content. It outlined the plan in a blog post titled, "5 ways we're toughening our approach to protect families on YouTube and YouTube Kids."

The new guidelines are:

  • Tougher application of community guidelines and faster enforcement through technology
  • Removing ads from inappropriate videos targeting families
  • Blocking inappropriate comments on videos featuring minors
  • Providing guidance for creators who make family-friendly content
  • Engaging and learning from experts

The rules follow reports earlier this month that exposed flaws in YouTube's algorithms and screening policies. The controversy stemmed from YouTube Kids, designed as a more child-friendly version of the video site. The service's filters failed to recognize or pull down some videos that feature disturbing imagery but are aimed at children -- like Mickey Mouse laying in a pool of blood, or a claymation version of Spider Man urinating on Elsa, the Disney princess from "Frozen."

Videos featuring children doing innocuous activities like exercising are also riddled with predatory or sexual comments from viewers, something YouTube is attempting to curb with its new guidelines. 

And more recently, the company took down several videos that featured children in abusive or vulnerable situations only after BuzzFeed brought the videos to the company's attention.

The new guidelines come as tech giants find themselves under intense scrutiny from Congress for the power and influence they have over what billions of people see online. Earlier this month, Google, Facebook and Twitter testified in marathon Senate and House hearings over the way Russian trolls abused their platforms to meddle in last year's US presidential election. Lawmakers grilled the tech companies over accountability for the algorithms they used.  

Regulating family-friendly content isn't the only thing YouTube is working on. Earlier last week, Google said it's cracking down on terror videos in an effort to fight against online extremism. 

Those extremist videos have landed YouTube in hot water before. Earlier this year, advertisers boycotted YouTube after their ads appeared next to extremist and hate content because of YouTube's automated advertising technology. Major brands, including AT&T and Johnson & Johnson, ditched advertising on the platform. But Ruth Porat, Google's CFO, said on an earnings conference call last month that most of the advertisers that boycotted have returned to the platform.

To read more about safeguarding against YouTube, check out CNET's guide to make YouTube safer for your children

This article originally appeared on CNET, titled, "YouTube outlines plan to protect kids from disturbing content."