YouTube has recently come under fire for inappropriate and harmful videos being displayed on YouTube Kids. This first came to light when a mom/pediatrician by the name of Free Hess discovered disturbing content in a YouTube Kids video that her daughter was watching (Lewis). This first occurred back in July 2018 and it is unknown how long videos like these could have been up before being reported like this one. The YouTube Kids video where the inappropriate content was discovered was in a popular Nintendo cartoon called Splatoon. The videos start off by playing the children's video so nothing seems out of the ordinary. Then close to four to four and a half minutes into the video there will be a spliced clip containing inappropriate and harmful content, instructing kids about self-harm and other gory activities.
Once the video was reported it was not taken down immediately. It took YouTube approximately eight months to take down the video and that was only after Dr. Hess published her blog post. Hess has spotted many more videos related to this one. Hess as well as other moms banded together to report these videos with minimal luck on having them removed. Hess being a pediatrician has been directly affected by these videos. She sees children coming into her own emergency room because they were attempting to harm themselves. Some of these kids have seen videos like the ones Hess reported on YouTube. YouTube Kids was made to be a kid-friendly version of YouTube for children 8 and under so they would not be exposed to videos such as these.
YouTube has made statements saying YouTube is not used to encourage dangerous behaviors and they have strict policies for dealing with this (Lewis). Even though YouTube makes claims like this it seems that many videos seem to slip through their algorithms or are not picked up by the flagging system they have in place. Even with use of the flagging system many of the videos are not being taken down. YouTube Kids was made to be a kid friendly site; however, it does not seem to be safe for kids and many parents have good reason not to trust it.
When looking into the individualist perspective on this case we very quickly learn that this scenario and how this scenario was taken care of was not done in an ethical manner. When reviewing this case, it must be understood that the ethical rule of individualism is that, “Business actions should be maximize profits for the owners of a business, but do so within the law” (Salazar, pg. 17). When looking into individualism it is easy to tell that YouTube is not acting ethically in this situation. For one, having these videos uploaded onto a children's site is not legal so they are not acting within the law. They are essentially allowing videos promoting harmful acts to a group of children younger than the age of eight. By allowing this they will not be maximizing their profits. When people see that YouTube is being held in a negative light, some may stop using the site and others may take their stocks out of the company. Again this is not being done within the confines of the law making these acts illegal. Due to this the company will look bad in the public eye causing the company to lose money. Overall YouTube is not acting ethically in an individualist perspective.
The next theory being looked at is from a utilitarian perspective. The utilitarian ethical rule in this case states, “Business actions should aim to maximize the happiness in the long run for all conscious beings that are affected by the business action” (Salazar, pg. 19). In this case the videos themselves are unethical because they are not maximizing happiness for anyone except for maybe the person posting these gory videos. It seems that YouTube is trying to prevent this with their algorithms to sensor certain videos. The algorithms in this case have not been working and YouTube has done nothing about it. This is lack of effort is not bringing happiness to anyone. Many children are getting scared because of these videos and many parents are scarred to let their children watch YouTube Kids even though it was designed for them. YouTube is also taking way too much time taking these videos down. Many parents have flagged these videos multiple time to try to get some attention from YouTube; however, these videos have remained on the page. The children are not too fond of it either. They are just trying to watch videos for entertainment or to learn and they are being faced with gory images. The way that YouTube has responded to this controversy is unethical due to the fact that it does not maximize happiness for anyone watching the videos.
The Kantian perspective in this case expresses that YouTube was acting unethical on many occasions with what occurred on YouTube kids. To break down why YouTube is acting unethical in the eyes of Kant we must understand the ethical rule of Kantianism which state, “Always act in ways that respect and honor individuals and their choices. Don’t lie, cheat, manipulate or harm others to get your way. Rather, use informed and rational content from all parties” (Salazar, pg. 20). When looking into Kantianism it is easy to tell that YouTube did not act with respect and that they did not honor individuals choices when using YouTube Kids. They did not act respectively because they did not remove the posts for almost eight months even after they were repeatedly flagged by concerned parents. They didn't respect the kids either. There was obviously something wrong with these videos yet they let them sneak through the algorithm and couldn't delete them before they were seen by the children. YouTube did not honor the individuals either. They require users to agree to the community goals that they cannot uphold themselves. Looking at the Formula of Humanity is another way to check whether an act is ethical or unethical. The Formula of Humanity states, “Our fundamental ethical duty is to treat people with respect, to treat them as equally capable of living an autonomous life” (DesJardins, pg. 38). When looking at this it is easy to tell that YouTube did not abide by this either. They did not treat their users with respect by allowing such a video to be displayed on their site. Also, they did not have the respect to remove it in a timely manner. Again this YouTube did not act ethically according to the Kantian perspective.
The perspective of virtue theory also shows that YouTube has acted unethically in this case. When going over virtue theory we must look into the four main virtues. Virtue theory’s ethical rule states, “Act so as to embody a variety of virtuous or good character traits and so as to avoid vicious or bad character traits” (Salazar, pg. 22). YouTube has not shown many good character traits. They have not removed these inappropriate posts in a timely manner. They have not seemed to care much about those, these videos have been affecting. They have been treating these users more as numbers and less as humans. They have not aced within the four virtues of virtue theory. During this scenario YouTube has not used courage in attempting to resolve this case. They let the videos stay on the site for a longer time rather than stepping up and taking down the video.
Next on the list for virtues is honesty. For this virtue YouTube has not been honest throughout the entirety of this controversy. They said that they would take down the video in a timely manner. They also said in their community guidelines that videos like this would not be allowed onto the YouTube Kids site; however, it seems that there are many videos containing inappropriate content on the site.
The last two virtues of virtue theory are self-control and fairness. YouTube did not show the ability to control their actions by allowing a video of this caliber to make it onto a children’s site. They also did not manage to be fair to the people trying to use the site. They were not supposed to show videos with self-harm and when they did, they did not take them down in a timely manner which was not fair to the people trying to watch these videos.
When looking at virtue theory it is very obvious that the acts done by YouTube were done unethically. They could have resolved this in other ways; however, did it without treating their users correctly.
In my opinion YouTube did not act ethically or professional when dealing with this controversial scenario. They could have dealt with this situation very differently and in a more ethical manner that could have abided by all the ethical theories. If YouTube had just fixed their algorithm to prevent this from happening they might have been depicted in a better light when the media picked up this topic. Also, if they had just removed the video in a timely manner Dr. Hess might not have had to create a blog about what was occurring.
The issue in this case is that there are videos on YouTube kids that are not suitable for kids that are teaching them self-harm and are showing the children many other gory things. These videos are being uploaded by people who are not facing any consequences because they are not able to be traced. Many of these people are creating fake accounts that show little to no trace back to who they really are. YouTube needs to make a new way for people to make accounts that are easily trackable so people can longer make fake accounts. They can do this by either entering a social security number or a drivers license. By doing this it will discourage people from posting inappropriate videos such as the ones in this scenario.
The other problems that need to be solved are the algorithms in place and the employees making them. The algorithm that detects videos that aren't appropriate for YouTube is obviously not working. There are plenty of videos making it through the algorithm without being detected. These are the videos reaching the kids with harmful content. The employees need to work harder to create a new algorithm so that this is no longer a problem in the future. The last thing that need to be changed is the removal/flagging system in place on YouTube. These videos are being flagged multiple times and they are still not being removed from the site. The employees need to be more aware of what needs to be removed especially when a video is being flagged by so many people trying to get it taken down. This will all drastically affect YouTube's profits and public image. When people see the videos being posted without any reaction from YouTube their name will be placed in a negative light, which will not be beneficial to the company. The end result of this will be an overall loss of profit for YouTube.
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By: Angelo Martino