YouTube in recent weeks has been besieged by various scandals and responded to some by strengthening hate speech rules. A new report today details one major change being discussed to better protect kids on the site.
According to the Wall Street Journal, executives are currently “debating moving all children’s content into a separate product.” This would result in the YouTube Kids app becoming the primary way young viewers watch content.
Meanwhile, YouTube employees are pushing the company to go even further and switch off the recommendations system for kids that autoplays a new video after the current one finishes.
Both changes would be massive shifts for the service, with the YouTube Kids move seemingly further along in discussion. The WSJ describes it as a “seismic and risky switch” that could jeopardize ad revenue given how “children’s videos are among the most popular on the platform.”
YouTube would benefit from isolating kids to one app where they’d hopefully be better able to curate content and make sure children are not exposed to harmful or risky videos. It would also make parents more likely to let their kids watch video on YouTube.
However, there are questions on whether Google would be able to fully implement and monitor content in the new app. There are past examples of inappropriate videos making their way into YouTube Kids, which resulted in a bigger focus on human curation.
Meanwhile, the bigger change requested by employees is stopping “Up next.” YouTube has been accused of fostering extremism given how the recommendation system has been able to surface questionable content to a wider audience. That system is ultimately responsible for increasing time spent on YouTube, with Google promising to recommend less borderline content.
Today’s article also has an interesting anecdote about Sundar Pichai becoming more “personally involved in steering [YouTube] through recent stumbles.” This in contrast to his previous four years of not interceding in day-to-day affairs of Susan Wojcicki. A YouTube spokesperson disagreed with the characterization, noting that the Google CEO “is consistently engaged with Susan and her leadership team on various complex, high-profile YouTube product launches and business matters.”