The man behind a large “kid-friendly” YouTube channel was recently arrested for attempted molestation of a minor — and you can still view his entire library of videos on the site.
Buzzfeed News today broke the story of what happened to the popular channel SevenAwesomeKids and its network of offshoots: The creator, Ian Rylett, was arrested last month on the aforementioned charge — specifically, he’s accused of attempting lascivious acts with a girl who was to appear in one of his channels’ videos. According to the report, YouTube has known about the arrest since last month, but hasn’t made any move to remove, suspend, or do anything at all with his channel.
Buzzfeed‘s report details the accounts of multiple girls who appeared on the channel, who describe a pattern of increasingly unpleasant, creepy behavior that looks even worse in retrospect than I’m sure it did at the time. Most disturbingly, the girls interviewed said Rylett often used his channel’s size as a way of influencing both their behavior and that of their parents. While they don’t specify what exactly that entailed, I shudder to think.
YouTube is a staple of life for modern children. A Pew study earlier this year found that it was far and away the most popular social media app among teenagers, with 85 percent of those surveyed saying they used it, and 32 percent saying they used it more often than any other site. Content for kids is so widespread and prevalent on YouTube that it warrants its own app — albeit one that regularly hosts some pretty awful content that happens to sneak by censors.
Unfortunately, where kids congregate, you tend to find the people you must protect them from, and Rylett wouldn’t be the first to use YouTube to prey on the vulnerable. There’s a nasty history of YouTubers being accused of manipulating underage fans into sending them compromising pictures, or otherwise exchanging in age-inappropriate dialogue with the children who watch them.
And even when the adults involved aren’t being creepy, they’re being awful in other ways. Remember the DaddyOFive channel, where two parents tormented and tortured their children under the guise of pranks? Or the Toy Freaks channel, where a father made videos of his two young daughters screaming and vomiting? Or, or, or… the list goes on, and my stomach doesn’t need to turn any more so soon after breakfast. In most of these cases, YouTube didn’t preemptively take action, but waited until the outrage was loud enough to react.
The litany of stories involving children on YouTube being exploited or abused keeps getting longer and longer, but this one has to take the cake. Quite besides the sheer hideousness of what he’s accused of, Rylett’s channel is directly involved with his alleged crime. There’s no redeeming or artistic merit to it anymore that would divorce it from the current proceedings. Even if YouTube doesn’t want to outright delete the entire network, it’d be possible for them to suspend it, in order to eventually return all content should the allegations prove to be false.
As it is, the fact the channel is still viewable under the circumstances is just bizarre and grotesque. Why would YouTube keep the channel up? My first thought would be to point out YouTube keeps a cut of the revenue made on each video — but in a statement the company said they’d demonetized Rylett’s channels. Assuming that’s true, it’s even more baffling, since YouTube wouldn’t have a mercenary reason for allowing it to remain viewable.
Regardless, the portfolio of anecdotes about children being the ones to pay for YouTube success keeps getting fatter — and the company hasn’t made any moves beyond scrubbing a few of the problematic channels. The fact it’s not even taking that step anymore doesn’t bode well for the future of children on the site.