YouTube recommendations can lead kids to videos about school shootings and other gun-related content. This is evidenced by the data of the non-profit monitoring group Tech Transparency Project (TTP), writes Engadget.
According to it, YouTube’s recommendation algorithm steers boys interested in video games to scenes of school shootings, instructions on how to use and modify guns, and other gun-related content.
The authors of the report created four new YouTube accounts under the names of two 9-year-old boys and two 14-year-old boys. All accounts “watched” playlists of content about popular video games such as Roblox, Lego Star Wars, Halo and Grand Theft Auto. The researchers then tracked referrals for those accounts over a 30-day period last November.
“The study found that YouTube pushed content on shootings and weapons to all of the gamer accounts, but at a much higher volume to the users who clicked on the YouTube-recommended videos,” the TTP writes.
The group emphasized that the videos included scenes of school shootings and other mass shootings, graphic demonstrations of the damage guns can do to the human body, and instructions for converting a handgun into a fully automatic weapon.
The report also noted that some of the recommended videos violate YouTube’s own policies. The recommendations included a video of a young girl firing a gun, as well as tutorials on turning hanguns into “fully automatic” weapons and other modifications. Some of these videos were also monetized through advertising.
For its part, a YouTube representative pointed to the YouTube Kids app and its built-in supervision tools that create a safer experience for teens and children on the platform.
“We welcome research on our recommendations, and we’re exploring more ways to bring in academic researchers to study our systems,” the spokesperson said. “But in reviewing this report’s methodology, it’s difficult for us to draw strong conclusions. For example, the study doesn’t provide context of how many overall videos were recommended to the test accounts, and also doesn’t give insight into how the test accounts were set up, including whether YouTube’s Supervised Experiences tools were applied.”
It was previously reported that YouTube asks some users to disable ad blockers or pay for a premium subscription, otherwise they will not be allowed to watch the video. New approaches in the work of YouTube were described by one of the Reddit users. According to them, the hosting started showing a pop-up warning some users about the ad blocking ban.