BuzzFeed News reports that several users found YouTube’s site and app autocompleting search queries starting with ‘how to have’ with disturbing suggestions, including ‘s*x with your kids’, over the weekend.
YouTube said in a statement that it’s removed that autocomplete result and similar ones, and is investigating how they cropped up in the first place.
Thankfully, it doesn’t appear that the suggestions are indicative of numerous related videos on the company’s streaming platform; rather, it’s being speculated that the specific autocomplete results may have been part of a planned campaign by trolls. Google has previously noted that its autocomplete prediction algorithms take into account popular search queries, and so it stands to reason that a group of malicious actors could have banded together and entered the aforementioned search term several times in order to have it surface when others used the site to look up ‘how to have…’.
The incident comes shortly after YouTube was found hosting troubling content aimed at children, including popular cartoon characters doing things like drinking bleach; some verified channels with millions of views had uploaded videos featuring children tied up and in visible distress, as well as being made to play ‘doctor’ with adults.
In addition, some videos that included children were recently found to have received sexually explicit comments; their appearance, and YouTube’s inability to filter these out, have caused major advertisers to pull out of campaigns promoting their products on the Google-owned platform.
Policing a major platform like YouTube isn’t easy, but it’s clear that the company will have to put more efforts into tackling these horrors as quickly as they crop up.