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Disney, Fortnite pull YouTube ads amidst concern over a "soft-core pedophile ring" operating in its comments

Photo: Anadolu Agency (Getty Images)

YouTube—the online video platform that profits pretty much no matter what people choose to aimlessly vomit onto it, a strategy that works out, like, 80 percent of the time—has run smack into that unfortunate 20 percent yet again this week. Bloomberg reports that major advertisers like Disney, Epic Games (publisher of the ridiculously popular Fortnite), and Nestle have all pulled their ad money from the company, owing to allegations that their commercials were being associated with videos being passed around by pedophiles—rarely considered a “good look” in the online marketing world.

All of this stems from a video posted to the site Sunday by former comedy vlogger Matt Watson, accusing the service of indirectly profiting off of a “soft-core pedophile ring” operating under its radar that shares videos of young girls engaging in unintentionally suggestive activities, then posts timestamps in the comments of particularly “good” (ugh) moments. Some of those videos—including those which appear to have been re-uploaded by people other than the original creators, specifically for this purpose—were monetized, meaning that brands were paying the company for the right to have their products associated with one of the shittiest imaginable gullies of the online video cesspit.


Because this is YouTube, the conversation around Watson’s video has rapidly devolved into name-calling, accusations of grandstanding, and moral high grounds crafted entirely from human excrement. A lot of content creators, for instance, are afraid this push will herald a new “adpocalypse,” the community term for the period in late 2016 where the monetization market crashed over accusations that ads were playing in connection to videos with violent or racist content.

But YouTube has already started responding to the campaign, reportedly launching a crusade to delete inappropriate videos and ban commenters in the hopes of curtailing behaviors (and keeping advertisers on its side, or lure the defectors back). According to the Bloomberg report, the company says less than $8,000 was spent in ad money for the applicable videos over the last six months, all of which will be refunded to advertisers. It also announced that it’s updating its content strike policies to make it clearer what the consequences are for violating its terms of service.


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