It's obvious that YouTube has a huge exploitation issue. After investigative reports by BBC News and The Times, it was estimated that YouTube had "between 50,000 and 100,000 active predatory accounts leaving indecent comments on videos of children." And these are just the ones who have made themselves easy to find.
Despite the "trusted flagger" program which seems to be cut and dried when it comes to political content or channels related to firearms, evidently doesn't work as smoothly when it comes to keeping children safe. The Independent reported that "the system is said to be failing to tackle the problem."
In an article from last year, we discussed ElsaGate and the SevenAwesomeKids network that had been exposed by comedian Daniel Tosh on his Comedy Central program Tosh.0. Well, it appears SevenAwesomeKids are back in the spotlight again. What's more, it seems our suspicions were sadly correct.
The owner of the SevenAwesomeKids network was arrested last month related to charges alleging he was engaged in "lewd and lascivious molestation" involving a young girl, under 16 who made videos for one of his channels. Rylett was arrested in his Orange County hotel room on August 16. Arrest documents show he was said to have verbally abused the young girl, demanding her to undress for him and “practice wrapping her breasts down, to make them appear smaller for the video shoot.”
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At one point he was said to have attempted forcibly removing the child's underwear. What's more, he was threatening that he would use her existing contract to fine her "if she did not comply with his demand."
This arrest is apparently no secret to YouTube who learned of the events in mid-August. Alex Jones may have been removed from YouTube but several channels from the SevenAwesomeKids network are still up.
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the video is in German, but you can activate closed captions and translate automatically to English or several other languages. Pedophile networks meeting in forums discuss where to find the latest videos, what search terms to use to find
One incredibly disturbing trend is parents, caretakers or family members being involved in the exploited child's channel.
Last September the parents behind the YouTube account Daddy O Five were sentenced for child abuse and neglect for their "prank" channel that garnered millions of views and subscribers. The ElsaGate phenomenon which we've previously reported on was also unfolding around the same time. As we mentioned in an article from last year, Daniel Tosh brought attention to a network of channels under the banner of SevenAwesomeKids.
There have been other YouTubers accused or convicted of grooming their audience, soliciting child pornography and more over the last few years. Apart from a channel going down and the occasional charges filed not much seems to be accomplished.
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As mentioned, though there are only a few people making videos or writing about this, there are apparently a number of people from around the world who, upon becoming aware of this, have tried to rouse YouTube into action and flagged videos. Perhaps YouTube feels muting predatory comment sections and turning their head is worth the enormous ad revenue generated by billions of views and millions of hours of watch time at their site.
In the French and German videos the apparent existence of a tenuously connected "network" of pedophiles and online child groomers who share videos and tips for finding such videos on various forums online.
Most of the exploitative commenters whether in livestreams or in the comment section begin with compliments which become more and more sexualized. This is common in situations of child grooming. This type of "real time grooming" occurs on YouTube and other networks like Periscope (Twitter's livestreaming platform). Journalists like Geoff Golberg have the past couple of years trying to warn YouTube and Twitter with very little success. Each time another horror story unfolds it's the same apology and promise to do better. Meanwhile, we're told that Alex Jones and "fake news" are dangerous enough to delete entirely.
Videos featuring gymnastics, dance, exercise, performing normal routines, (sometimes including bathing, showering or dressing for bed) are generally the most infested. As the German and French videos mention, many of the most popular videos are from children in Latin America and Eastern Europe or Russia. Then there are the "PedoDare" videos involve strangers flocking to sites like YouTube and Periscope and mobbing the livestreams with the intent to encourage children to perform in sexualized manners.
Since this issue has been brought up more and more "predatory comment sections" are being shut down, but some of these videos are still netting millions of views, still likely among hundreds or thousands of others being circulated and reuploaded in pedophile networks. Blocking the offender from commenting also doesn't necessarily block these same abusive, predatory commenters from messaging the children in the videos either.
"Trusted Flaggers" who spoke to BBC and The Times say they feel like their hands were tied and YouTube wasn't doing enough to help. <a href="https://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-trending-42060357">BBC's Trending found</a> that complaints regarding videos related to child exploitation were terribly backlogged. Meanwhile, when The Ralph Retort did a livestream about Mundane Matt and his "false flagging" escapades his channel was hit with a strike that left his main channel unable to livestream. Priorities, I suppose?
And it makes sense if you look at it from a purely fiscal standpoint. When Buzzfeed, BBC, The Times and other well-known media sources had brought their complaints up multiple times it eventually culminated in <a href="https://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/youtube-adverts-paedophiles-children-videos-access-comments-a8073181.html">several major advertisers pulling out</a>.
It was after this that <a href="https://variety.com/2017/digital/news/youtube-toy-freaks-channel-terminated-1202617834/#article-comments">YouTube finally dropped Greg Chism's Toy Freaks channel</a>, a channel in which Chism would have his two young daughters dress up as infants engaging in bizarre behavior such as spitting on each other, "wetting themselves," regurgitating and screaming in fear.
Afterward YouTube released a written statement: "We’ve terminated the Toy Freaks channel for violation of our policies. We will be conducting a broader review of associated content in conjunction with expert trusted flaggers." Many other offending channels featured videos of children confined in small spaces, tied up and "frequently include gross-out themes like injections, eating feces, or needles." Many of these videos had view counts in the tens of millions.
Could one reason behind the reticence of YouTube to act be related to the immense amount of ad revenue YouTube is raking in from "pedo friendly" content? Toy Freaks was one of the top 100 accounts in all of YouTube. Same with Seven Super Girls (one of the SevenAwesomeKids network of channels). When Tosh did his story on the SevenAwesomeKids network he pointed out their over 12 billion views to date. That was a year ago, but a year later it is still one of the most popular "tween channels" despite the fact that a good portion of the audience is likely far from the "tweens" age group.
Buzzfeed spoke to some former stars of the SevenAwesomeKids channels:
“Then some of us started to get the feeling we were being groomed for some darker audience,” a former SevenAwesomeKids performer said. “Things that didn’t feel weird at the time — like the themes, the leotards, and the camera angles — started to feel strange. I started to get that feeling especially when you think that some of these girls are 9 years old.”
Rylett had a bit of a reputation of being somewhat creepy among the kids and some of the parents, but as he was doling out monthly checks of up to $20,000, few complaints rolled in. The girls themselves, by the way, were forbidden by Rylett to contact each other directly. Afraid of them comparing notes possibly? He was described as being manipulative and wielding control over the talent as well as their parents. This seems self-evident in the fact that, for whatever reason, some parents decided it would be a good idea to drop off their child ("under sixteen" is all we have to go on from arresting documents regarding age) to his Orange County hotel room.
Rylett supposedly had created a "parents committee" to keep the talent safe, but it's certainly possible the parents he chose were chosen for their willingness to do whatever it took for fame or money, rather than in the interest of the childrens' safety.
The girls also had to deal with a mixture of threats and promises:
“He’d talk to our parents and tell them to yell at us; he’d threaten to take our videos down; his language was so hostile and the way he talked about the girls’ bodies, clothes, and makeup,” she said. “It was scarring — you have to understand, these are 12, 13, 14-year-old girls he’s doing this to.” Another SevenAwesomeKids vlogger said Rylett often dealt directly with the younger girls himself, outside of the view of parents. “A lot of parents early on didn’t understand or know what YouTube really was and they weren’t really involved. My parents would’ve flipped out if I told them how Ian behaved, but I was so in love with YouTube I didn’t want to freak them out.”
A former associate also spoke with Buzzfeed: “It’s another example of how YouTube isn’t doing anything for us — I’ve contacted them and heard nothing back.”
Another former SevenAwesomeKids performer who spoke with Buzzfeed said she had already contacted YouTube: “YouTube’s responses were not satisfactory,” she said. “I think it was like barely three sentences with no real information.”
“In all my years filming for the channels, there was never any conversation with YouTube. There was no kid rep support that I know of and no number to call to report things to,” another former SevenAwesomeKids said. “We were on our own.”
Buzzfeed reported that at least one of the SevenAwesomeKids channels was taken down, but the primary channel is currently unaffected.