Blood, shit and violence: YouTube has a creepy Minecraft problem

Friday on YouTube morning several hundred viewers watched a live animated video of a woman Minecraft Topless avatar opening a gift full of shit emoji. In the video thumbnail two swollen boobs were supporting a shit Minecraft brick.

This is one of the many disturbing and grotesque animated Minecraft videos identified by WIRED presented under YouTube Minecraft ‘Subject’ page, a content sorting feature introduced in 2019. Similar Minecraft– style vignettes in it include an avatar with heart-shaped eyes and a bloody knife smiling at a chained woman in a bikini, a mother and father holding sticks to a crying child and a pregnant woman with feces about to sit on a man. The live videos looped for hours, some racking up tens of thousands of views in total. Some of these channels get tens of thousands of views per day.

In 2017, journalists discovered hundreds of graphic, sexual or violent YouTube videos posing as “child-friendly”, later referred to as Elsagate– on the YouTube Kids application supposed to be adapted to the age of the platform. These videos, which depicted child abuse, murder, and other R-rated content, often featured popular children’s TV characters such as Peppa Pig or FrozenElsa or hidden under harmless headlines, which apparently helped them fly under the radar of YouTube algorithms. They were also created by independent animators. In response, YouTube deleted over 150,000 videos and ads removed out of two million.

YouTube’s Elsagate purge called into question some of the obvious ways in which unscrupulous content creators were targeting children, one of YouTube’s largest audiences. But since 2017, YouTube has added several new discoverability features: topics, hashtag pages, and video game directories. And while it’s not as easy to find compromising Peppa Pig videos on YouTube right now, a WIRED investigation uncovered dozens of opportunistic channels targeting Minecraft and Among us Fans.

While the videos in question do not appear to be featured on the YouTube Kids app, more than half of the most viewed videos on YouTube proper are aimed at children. Nursery rhymes and educational videos entertain and soothe children whose parents need a break. And parents replay them over and over again, often racking up millions of views. A large number of videos aimed at children are produced by official channels which own the intellectual property rights to the children’s favorite characters; others are low-budget entertainment by third parties taking advantage of children’s insatiable love for streaming entertainment.

Minecraft is the most popular game on YouTube, and at any given time, tens of thousands of people, many of them children, are watching it live Minecraft content there. Clicking on Minecraft under the YouTube games home page, users MinecraftYouTube’s “topics” page, which YouTube generates by default based on concurrent viewers. On Monday, the first thumbnail under this section featured a slobbery, heart-eyed policeman and a busty avatar with pink panties molded to the side. Six thousand people were watching live. Like the others Minecraft grotesque, the vignette is the most shocking thing; innuendo and violence are hardly present in the animation.

YouTube divides the Topic page into five sections: “Live”, “Recommended”, “Recent”, “Popular” and “Official”. For the most part, these last four contain Minecraft animations, highlights and tutorials. Inappropriate thumbnails are scattered all over them, especially if a user is viewing or searching for them; however, the highest concentration is in the “Live” section, which appears first. Friday, MinecraftThe “Live” section included video from the Minecraft Pooh. Scrolling a bit to the right, there was a video thumbnail of a hand holding a bloody knife up to a woman in a bikini.

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