×

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.

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

  • SAG-AFTRA HQ

    SAG-AFTRA Ends Long Strike Against Ad Agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty

    SAG-AFTRA has ended its 10-month strike against Bartle Bogle Hegarty after the advertising agency agreed to sign the union’s new commercials contract. The union instructed its 160,000 members in September not to accept any work for BBH, which had been signed to SAG-AFTRA’s commercials contracts since 1999. The strike came two weeks after BBH publicly [...]

  • FaceApp is displayed on an iPhone,

    SAG-AFTRA Warns Members About FaceApp Terms of Use

    SAG-AFTRA is warning its 160,000 members about the “overreaching and invasive” terms of use for the FaceApp mobile application. FaceApp, developed by Russian company Wireless Lab, uses neural network technology to automatically generate transformations of faces in photographs. The app can be used to make users appear older, younger, or change gender. The terms include [...]

  • J. Cole

    Apple Music Launches 'Rap Life' Playlist

    Apple Music announced the launch of “Rap Life,” a new global playlist focusing on contemporary rap artists and culture. It replaces the former “The A-List: Hip-Hop” playlist. Said Ebro Darden, Apple Music’s Global Editorial Head of Hip-Hop and R&B: “We flipped it to dig deeper into into the lifestyle [and to] keep pushing the culture [...]

  • Billie Eilish

    ARRI, Mobile TV Group Back New Venture Revitalizing Streamed Concerts

    A new venture looking to bring a fresh approach to live-streaming concerts has gotten the backing of hardware heavyweights ARRI and Mobile TV Group. Wide+Close is launching with the mandate of shooting music performances with film cameras and cinematographers in order to give the content a more cinematic feel. “We want to take concert filming [...]

  • Fortnite Battle Royale

    How 'Fortnite' Fans Can Earn Loot by Watching YouTube Videos

    Epic Games and YouTube have teamed up with a special offer for “Fortnite” players — giving players of the popular battle-royale game rewards when they watch “Fortnite”-premiered content on the video platform. The catch: You have to watch at least 20 minutes of “Fortnite” special content or live esports broadcasts to receive the loot. Under [...]

  • Roku headquarters

    Roku Plans to Expand to Brazil, Other Countries (EXCLUSIVE)

    Roku plans to expand to multiple new territories in the coming months, Variety has learned. One of the first new markets for the company will likely be Brazil. An international expansion could help Roku grow its customer base, which in turn should lead to growing advertising revenues. Roku executives have been hinting at plans to [...]

  • Google Stadia Pro to Include 1

    Google’s Stadia Game Streaming Service to Include Free Monthly Game

    Google has been busy sharing additional details about its upcoming game streaming service Stadia, clearing up some confusion in the process. Stadia’s pro subscription tier, which will cost $10 per month, won’t be a Netflix-type subscription service. However, subscribers will get free games at the rate of about a title per month. That’s according to [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content