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Government, Politics & Issues

Hawley Seeks To Bar YouTube From Recommending Videos Featuring Minors

Attorney General Josh Hawley speaks during Thursday's televised senatorial debate. Oct. 2018.
File photo I Carolina Hidalgo | St. Louis Public Radio
U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley is filing legislation aimed at stopping websites like YouTube of recommending videos of minors.

Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley is taking aim at YouTube after The New York Times reported it was recommending videos of minors to users who watch sexually suggestive content.

The GOP senator wants to ban video-sharing services like YouTube from queuing up videos of minors to users — which he said would “place children’s safety over profits and pedophiles.”

The Times reported how YouTube’s algorithm can recommend home videos of children to users who watched other clips of prepubescent, partially clothed children. Hawley’s office said in a statement that such an arrangement is especially problematic since some videos are posted by children themselves — leaving them vulnerable to being manipulated by pedophiles into posting suggestive videos.

Hawley is planning to introduce legislation barring video-hosting services from recommending videos that feature minors. Those videos could still appear in search results and would exempt things like prime-time talent shows.

“Every parent in America should be appalled that YouTube is pushing videos of their children to pedophiles,” Hawley said. “It’s equally outrageous that YouTube refuses to take the most effective step necessary to fix the issue. I’m proud to announce this legislation to force YouTube to do the right thing and place children’s safety over profits and pedophiles.”

In response to the New York Times article, YouTube released a statement about how it’s curtailed the ability for minors to shoot live videos — and limited recommendations of “videos featuring minors in risky situations.”

“The vast majority of videos featuring minors on YouTube, including those referenced in recent news reports, do not violate our policies and are innocently posted — a family creator providing educational tips, or a parent sharing a proud moment,” said YouTube’s unsigned statement. “But when it comes to kids, we take an extra cautious approach towards our enforcement and we’re always making improvements to our protections.”

YouTube told The New York Times it would not stop recommending videos of minors altogether “because recommendations are the biggest traffic driver, removing them would hurt ‘creators’ who rely on those clicks.”

This is the latest instance where Hawley has sought legislative action against big technology companies. He recently introduced legislation that would allow internet users to opt out of being tracked by websites.

Follow Jason on Twitter: @jrosenbaum

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