Epic Games, GNC and Nestlé's, among others said they removed advertising on the platform after YouTube creator Matt Watson posted a video highlighting the issue and accused the company of "facilitating the sexual exploitation" of children. Watson's video demonstrated how, if users clicked on one of the videos, YouTube's algorithms recommended similar ones.
The comment section for each video was full of people leaving timestamps where viewers can pause the video and see genitalia or nipples.
"Any content - including comments - that endangers minors is abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube", a YouTube spokesperson said in a statement by email. YouTube admits there is more it can do to catch abuse, and in a more timely manner.
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. The spokeswoman also went on to mention, in reference to Watson's video, that total ad spending on the videos mentioned was less than $8,000 within the last 60 days, which YouTube plans to refund. Many of these videos had ads connected to them as well and, in the examples shown, one was for Fortnite. In many cases, the site reported, videos of young children to which pre-roll ads are attached have racked up hundreds of thousands and even millions of views.
YouTube has faced advertiser boycotts in the past, including a widespread boycott in early 2017.
A Nestle representative said that it will work with YouTube and determine when to start advertising with the platform again.
What next?: Dr. Oetker is asking YouTube "to explain how it could happen that advertising of our company was placed in an environment that we strictly reject and consider highly reprehensible ethically", according to a statement provided to CNN. It is technically easier for software to scan text, such as comments, rather than video for anything that would violate YouTube's policies.
'An extremely low volume of some of our advertisements were shown on videos on YouTube where inappropriate comments were being made, ' a spokesman said.
Those critics have said in separate videos online that Watson should have reported the alleged pedophiles through YouTube's own tools, rather than draw media and advertiser attention to the matter and risk costing them revenue.