After criticism from pro-family groups, the popular video site YouTube announced plans in December 2008 to become more 'family friendly.' Six months later, that site remains a haven for soft-core pornography, obscenity and links to outside porn sites. Despite claims by parent company Google that it would improve, a child surfing the site today could find a universe of objectionable content with little difficulty.
The Media Research Center's Culture and Media Institute studied YouTube to determine the prevalence of pornography, obscenity and other content inappropriate for children. CMI looked at the most popular search results for the word 'porn' - 157 videos that each had more than 1 million views. The analysis showed that while actual nudity has been blocked by YouTube, the site is filled with videos, images and spoken and written language that children should not be exposed to and many adults would find objectionable. Those range from clips of the Disney movie 'Aladdin' - dubbed with four-letter words and a porn movie theme - to scenes from actual porn films.
Major Findings Include:
- YouTube is for Porn: YouTube's own guidelines state that it is 'not for pornography or sexually explicit content.' But there's sexual material - including soft-core porn - all over the site. (A search of the word 'porn' returned more than 330,000 results.) While there is little actual nudity, most of these videos are highly sexually suggestive and include explicit language and themes from lesbianism to 'gangbangs.'
- Top 'Porn' Videos Watched 438 Million Times: Out of the 157 'porn' videos that received more than 1 million views, almost two-thirds (101 of 157) advertised themselves to be actual pornography. Those 101 videos had 438,318,147 combined views - or 1.38 views for every man, woman and child in the United States.
- YouTube is a Marketing Vehicle for Porn Merchants: Pornographers of all kinds used YouTube to drive traffic to their sites and products. Twelve percent (12 of the 101) of videos mentioned porn stars by name or were obvious clips from porn movies. Others were interviews with porn stars and reports from porn industry conventions. In addition, there were thousands of videos and repeated comments that served only as advertisements for hardcore porn sites, 'dating' and escort services, and phone sex lines. Among the comments on these videos were numerous offers to 'text me and let's talk dirty.' All of those were available to anyone viewing the site.
- Obscenity Commonplace: If your children can read, YouTube could teach them a whole new vocabulary. Profanity and every imaginable obscenity, including graphic sexual language, were rampant on the site. The 'F***' word alone appeared in the titles of some 169,000 individual videos.
- GayTube: Gay content, including gay propaganda, gay pornography and ads for gay escort services are easily found. There are 11,900 gay channels on YouTube, including 459 'gay porn' channels. A search of 'gay porn' returns 52,700 individual videos.
The Culture and Media Institute recommended ways for both YouTube and parents to better cope with offensive online video.
What Parents Can Do:
- Adults should never let children search or surf YouTube without constant supervision.
- Parents should remember that even seemingly harmless videos and search terms can have disturbing results for children - including obscenity and links to outside porn sites.
- Parents must be aware that YouTube is more than just videos; children can be exposed to objectionable content in comments and ads that appear on the site.
- Parents with YouTube accounts should not divulge their username/password to their children, and must be careful to log out of the account when they're done using it.
- Parents must find out what access restrictions and safety precautions their children's schools have in place, and let teachers and staff know of their concerns.
What YouTube Can Do:
- The company must further tighten its obscenity/sexually suggestive content standards and cooperate with pro-family groups to accomplish this.
- The company should take the advice The Parents Television Council gave it in December 2008, recommending 'formulating and adopting a thorough, accurate and transparent content rating system which would allow a parent to block a child from viewing age-inappropriate material.'
- YouTube must remove obscene user comments from its videos, and bar repeat offenders from posting comments.
- The company must construct a far more formidable barrier than its current 18 category, and then make sure all objectionable content is behind it.
- YouTube must get out front and be more willing to talk to critics in the media and in family organizations to address concerns.