Last week, vlogger Matt Watson exposed what is essentially a child exploitation wormhole inside YouTube’s recommendation algorithm that is every bit as vomit-inducing as it sounds and then some. (Warning: Linked video contains disturbing material.) Despite my initial skepticism, Watson’s findings were not some PizzaGate-type sh*t, and his research was way too easily replicated by Wired. On top of that, the child predator video network was reportedly monetized, which resulted in such heavy-hitters as Fortnite, Disney, and AT&T to correctly pull their advertising from YouTube until it stops being a goddamn child porn bonanza.
However, this completely justifiable move didn’t sit well with “YouTube stars” — a term that future anthropologists will one day cite as the fall of humanity — who decided to attack Watson for accurately exposing a legitimate pedophile ring hiding in plain sight because it might cost them a sliver of the ridiculous sums of money they’re pulling in. So if you’re looking for some new names to mail flaming bags of shit to, go ahead and give this Daily Dot link a click.
But just as that god-awful storm seemed like it was ready to blow over, the Washington Post reports that pediatrician Free N. Hess has discovered instructions on how to commit suicide tucked into children’s videos for lulz because the internet is a toilet.
One on YouTube shows a man pop into the frame. “Remember, kids,” he begins, holding what appears to be an imaginary blade to the inside of his arm. “Sideways for attention. Longways for results.”
“I think it’s extremely dangerous for our kids,” Hess said about the clips Sunday in a phone interview with The Washington Post. “I think our kids are facing a whole new world with social media and Internet access. It’s changing the way they’re growing, and it’s changing the way they’re developing. I think videos like this put them at risk.”
A recent YouTube video viewed by The Post appears to include a spliced-in scene showing Internet personality Filthy Frank. It’s unclear why he was edited into these clips, but his fans have been known to put him in memes and other videos. There is a similar video on his channel filmed in front of a green screen, but the origins and context of the clip in question are not clear.
What’s extraordinarily f*cked up about the examples Hess chronicles on her blog, PediMom.com, is that the videos in question are not just popping up on YouTube in general, but also inside the YouTube Kids app, which is supposed to be a monitored, safe environment that’s curated for your child’s protection. If that wasn’t bad enough, PediMom claims that is has taken YouTube up to eight months to remove videos that have been reported for a terrifying smorgasbord of inappropriate content from the aforementioned suicide clips to — wait for it — Minecraft characters shooting a school. Except, oh wait, that last example is still readily available as of this writing. Perfect. Great.
On a personal level, in the past month, my son has become obsessed with watching Nintendo videos, and I lowered my guard on YouTube despite being well-aware of its nightmare algorithm that James Bridle expertly laid bare last year. (Pajiba’s own Courtney Enlow experienced the trash-filled maw of YouTube recommendations first-hand when her daughter stumbled upon a lovely batch of Elsa-Anna incest.) So there was nothing more awesome than learning from WaPo that these suicide clips were popping up in Splatoon videos. Just f*cking peachy.
Except here’s my conundrum. I grew up in a strict, religious home where MTV was blocked, and I literally wasn’t allowed to watch The Simpsons until well after I had a driver’s license. If you’ve read a single word of my writing, obviously that approach did not set me on a lifelong path of godliness. Granted, I don’t force my beliefs onto my kids, or physically beat them into Biblical obedience, there’s still a hesitancy to pull the reins a little too tight and ban YouTube like the streaming Satan it is.
On the other hand, assholes are slipping instructions on how to commit suicide into random videos, so I’ll probably bite the bullet on this one and risk my spawn rebelling against my over-protectiveness by going full MAGA. Parenting is fun! That said, I’m not big on chest-beating displays of toxic masculinity, but if I find out that one of my kids saw any of this demented shit while they were looking for Mario Maker tips, well, I won’t just write a blog about it. We’ll leave it at that.