×

AT&T Suspends YouTube Ad Spending as Boycott Over ‘Pedophilia’ Videos Scandal Widens

AT&T, one month after it thought it was safe to advertise on YouTube again, said it is pulling all advertising spending from the world’s biggest video platform. The telco joins a boycott by marketers alarmed by the discovery that a secret group of child predators has been using YouTube to make sexual comments about kids.

In a statement, an AT&T spokesman said, “Until Google can protect our brand from offensive content of any kind, we are removing all advertising from YouTube.”

The issue — the latest “brand safety” scandal for YouTube — was exposed by vlogger Matt Watson in a Feb. 17 video. Watson discovered that YouTube’s algorithms enabled child predators to secretly connect across a series of videos with young girls engaged in everyday activities like gymnastics, stretching or hanging out at home. In those videos, members of what Watson called a “soft-core pedophilia ring” made sexualized comments about the girls tagged with timestamps identifying moments in the videos when the kids were in certain poses. The users in some cases traded child pornography in the comments section, he claimed.

Other marketers that have dropped spending with YouTube over the scandal include Disney, Epic Games, Hasbro, McDonald’s and Nestlé.

Popular on Variety

Google and YouTube reps, asked to comment about the advertiser spending freezes, did not address them directly. A company rep provided the same statement YouTube released previously, which said in part, “Any content — including comments — that endangers minors is abhorrent, and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube. We took immediate action by deleting accounts and channels, reporting illegal activity to authorities and disabling comments on tens of millions of videos that include minors.”

YouTube said in the 48 hours after Watson’s video posted, the service terminated over 400 accounts and channels that violated its policies and shut down the comments section on tens of millions of videos. YouTube also said it reported illegal activity to National Center for Missing & Exploited Children to work with law-enforcement authorities.

AT&T was among the advertisers that pulled its ad spending from YouTube in March 2017, after the revelation that YouTube was serving ads against terrorist video and other hate speech. Last month, the telco said it planned to resume buying ads on YouTube. AT&T brand chief Fiona Carter told the New York Times the company felt YouTube had taken adequate measures to ensure the platform was “brand safe” again.

More Digital

  • ABC News Live - David Hatcher

    ABC News Live Taps BuzzFeed's David Hatcher to Oversee Morning News Programming

    ABC News has recruited veteran TV producer David Hatcher as executive producer to oversee the morning news programming block for the ABC News Live streaming network. Hatcher most recently spent a year at BuzzFeed, where he was executive producer of morning news show “AM2DM” on Twitter. For ABC News Live, Hatcher will be responsible for [...]

  • Netflix-logo-N-icon

    Netflix Launches Top 10 Daily Rankings of Most Popular Titles by Country

    Netflix is taking top 10 lists of its most popular streaming content to members across the globe. Starting Monday (Feb. 24), Netflix said, it is rolling out a new row in its interface that will show the overall top 10 titles in a subscriber’s country, as well as the top 10 most popular series and [...]

  • Parasite

    'Parasite' Will Stream Exclusively on Hulu in U.S.

    Hulu has exclusive U.S. streaming rights to “Parasite,” the film that made history as the first foreign-language film to win best picture at this year’s Oscars. Under a deal with indie studio Neon, “Parasite” will be available on Hulu beginning Wednesday, April 8, the Disney-controlled streamer announced. The movie from filmmaker Bong Joon Ho won [...]

  • media stocks - wall-street

    Disney, Amazon, ViacomCBS Shares Hit as Stock Market Tumbles Amid Coronavirus Fears

    Fears of the Coronavirus spreading across the world sent major stock indices tumbling on Monday morning. Shares of Disney and Amazon were down 4% for the day as reports that the deadly virus has hit South Korea and Italy spooked investors. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was down more than 1,000 points, or 3.5%, at [...]

  • Disney-Plus-Logo

    Disney Plus Launches Plan Discounts in U.K., Europe Ahead of March Debut

    Disney, looking to lock in Disney Plus customers in the U.K. and European markets prior to its official launch next month, is offering 14%-17% discounts on the streaming service — if users sign up for a one-year plan. Leading up to the March 24 debut of Disney Plus in the U.K., Ireland, France, Germany, Italy, [...]

  • Alex Dundas - Whistle

    Whistle Hires Ex-ITV Exec Alex Dundas as Head of Unscripted Originals (EXCLUSIVE)

    Digital-media company Whistle recruited Alex Dundas, most recently with ITV Entertainment, as executive VP and head of unscripted premium originals. Based in Whistle’s L.A. office, Dundas will oversee development and packaging of new unscripted shows from Whistle and also will support sales to TV network and streaming partners. He reports to Dominic Ianno, EVP of [...]

  • Aaron Pedersen (as Jay) & Jada

    Screen Australia Leads Call for Evolution of Industry Funding

    Screen Australia, the country’s federal support body, says the screen entertainment industry needs to come up with new business models in response to changes in audience behavior and the disruptive impact on content financing that has come from streaming. Public support bodies must change their relationships with the industry too, Screen Australia CEO Graeme Mason [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content