Epic Games has put a temporary halt on Fortnite advertising on YouTube, a freeze brought on by the recently unearthed news that its ads were running on videos used by online predators to coordinate and exploit children.
The Verge reports that Epic is pausing its pre-roll advertisements, the short ads that play ahead of videos on the platform, on YouTube and reached out to the platform and parent company Google “to determine actions they’ll take to eliminate this type of content from their service.”
The issue stems from the fact that YouTube is seemingly facilitating the communication of child predators through its recommendation algorithm, as well as through the comment sections on seemingly innocuous videos featuring young children. It's an issue that was highlighted by Matt Watson on Reddit earlier this week, and explored further in a Verge report shortly after.
“YouTube’s recommended algorithm is facilitating pedophiles’ ability to connect with each other, trade contact info, and link to actual child pornography in the comments,” explained Watson’s original post. “I can consistently get access to it from vanilla, never-before-used YouTube accounts via innocuous videos in less than ten minutes, in sometimes less than five clicks.”
For example, those videos featured comments from child predators that share time stamps intended to sexualize a child featured in a video that, taken at face value, isn’t deemed inappropriate content on its own. Because such videos are mundane and, outside of the spin given by commenting predators, appropriate for advertising under YouTube’s AdSense requirements, advertisements for things like Fortnite run before the video starts.
“Any content — including comments — that endangers minors is abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube,” a YouTube representative told the Verge. “There’s more to be done, and we continue to work to improve and catch abuse more quickly.”
The issue, however, has companies like Epic Games that typically run a great deal of advertising on YouTube concerned. A deeper look at how this kind of content got a foothold on the platform can be found in The Verge’s full writeup.