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Conspiracy theories surface on YouTube Kids

Last year was a rough one for YouTube. In addition to the various ad-related problems, the company’s child-focused YouTube Kids app came under fire for allowing violent and inappropriate cartoons to appear on the platform. Now, Business Insider has reported that YouTube Kids is facing a content problem of another kind by suggesting videos involving conspiracy theories to children.

For example, the search term “UFO” brought up many videos regarding toys, which is completely within the scope of YouTube Kids. However, one of the top videos depicted an alleged UFO with chemtrails behind it. The suggested videos also featured several videos hosted by conspiracy theorist David Icke.

One of Icke’s suggested video featured such topics as aliens building the pyramids, the always-popular lizard people theory, Freemasons engaging in human sacrifice, and claims that the assassination of President Kennedy was carried out by the U.S. government. While adults can digest these concepts and come to their own conclusions, it is not something many parents (or teachers) want children exposed to.

Several other videos featuring Icke appeared in the suggested video section, meaning that it would be fairly easy for a child to go from watching harmless videos about toys to watching a man rant about reptilian people and shadowy assassinations.

YouTube Kids makes use of algorithms to filter out inappropriate content, and it does work in some cases. For example, were you to search for “porn” or “9/11,” the search would come up empty. However, conspiracy theories appear to be sneaking in under the radar, likely due YouTube’s tag system. In addition to the search for “UFO,” Business Insider found that the search term “moon landing” turned up three videos claiming that the landing was faked. From those videos, Business Insider found several suggested videos featuring conspiracy theories regarding the CERN Large Hadron Collider.

When Business Insider informed YouTube of the issue, it removed the specific videos in question and released a statement that sheds a bit more light on how YouTube Kids works. YouTube said that it uses “human trained” systems, but noted that it was not perfect and the company was always working to improve those systems.

While several of the aforementioned videos have been removed, there are still many conspiracy theories floating around on YouTube Kids.

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Eric Brackett
Former Digital Trends Contributor
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