YouTube has been dealing with child safety issues on its platform for quite some time. However, in the wake of a New York Times article that called YouTube an “open gate for pedophiles,” more lawmakers are speaking out about the problem.
Last week, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) proposed a bill that would ban platforms like YouTube from recommending videos of children. Hawleys’ bill was in direct response to the Times’ report that YouTube’s recommendation system would show people videos of prepubescent, partially clothed children.
A summary of the bill noted that YouTube often recommended those videos to people “who have viewed sexually themed content or many videos of prepubescent children.”
“To make matters worse, some of these videos are linked to the kids’ social media accounts,” the bill added. “Pedophiles who find these videos on YouTube’s recommendation then contact those children and try to ‘groom’ them ‘into posting more sexualized pictures or engaging in sexual activity and having it videotaped.'”
Hawley is not the only member of Congress calling on YouTube to do more. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Marsha Blackburn wrote to YouTube’s CEO Susan Wojcicki to express their concerns over the platform’s failure to “address child sexual exploitation and predatory behavior.”
“The sexualization of children through YouTube’s recommendation engine represents the development of a dangerous new kind of illicit content meant to avoid law enforcement detection. Action is overdue,” the letter says. “YouTube must act forceful and swiftly to end this disturbing risk to children and society.”
This isn’t the first time reports have risen regarding child exploitation on YouTube. In February, brands like Nestle and Disney suspended YouTube ads over similar concerns.
YouTube did recently disable comments on videos featuring children. However, it’s clear that the platform needs to do more, especially when its own algorithm is feeding the problem.