Google has spent years tweaking YouTube’s algorithm, but these efforts seem not to be enough. A study shows that YouTube offers gun videos to kids.
YouTube’s recommended content algorithm has come under criticism again, this time for allegedly recommending hundreds of videos about guns and gun violence to young children interested in video games. Some of the videos even included scenes from school attacks and instructions on how to use and modify weapons.
A study by the nonprofit observing organization Tech Transparency Project (TTP) explored these suggestions by creating four test accounts, two identified as nine-year-olds and two 14-year-old boys. The researchers who checked the accounts only watched playlists made entirely of video game content. Nine-year-old accounts watched videos from games like Roblox, Lego Star Wars, and Five Nights at Freddy’s. At the same time, the 14-year-old account mostly watched Grand Theft Auto, Halo, and Red Dead Redemption.
YouTube offers kids gun violence videos
Researchers then saved suggested videos to accounts on the YouTube homepage and Up Next panel over a 30-day period. “The study revealed that YouTube recommends gun attacks and weapons-related content to all player accounts, while a much higher volume of content was recommended to users who clicked on YouTube-recommended videos,” TTP wrote in its report.
Some of the suggested videos included incidents of mass shooting, demos showing how much damage a gun can do to a body, and how-to guides for turning handguns into fully automatic weapons. Most of these videos violate YouTube’s own content policies, let alone being recommended to child accounts.
During the one-month testing period, YouTube recommended 382 videos to the accounts of nine-year-olds and 1,325 videos of real firearms to the accounts of 14-year-olds. YouTube has previously mentioned that it provides responsible recommendations and does not direct viewers to excessive content, but the study shows the opposite. Google has been trying to improve YouTube’s recommended video algorithm for years, but it still delivers content that is borderline, inappropriate, and sometimes offensive. The fact that the site is the most popular among young people can be particularly problematic. Because one out of every five people says that they visit the site almost constantly.