YouTube reportedly considers moving all children's content to YouTube Kids

Welcome to Small Humans, an ongoing series at Mashable that looks at how to take care of – and deal with – the kids in your life. Because Dr. Spock is nice and all, but it’s 2019 and we have the entire internet to contend with.

YouTube is reportedly considering major changes after a long string of terrible headlines involving everything from pedophiles to gun-wielding Disney characters.

The company might remove all children's content from YouTube and show it exclusively in the YouTube Kids app, a new Wall Street Journal article says. 

The other option under discussion involves entirely turning off auto-playing recommended videos on children's content. This is the system that leads viewers from a seemingly harmless video to extreme content and conspiracy theories. 

These changes would be immense for YouTube. The platform has reportedly been relying on down-ranking and reducing the reach of controversial content, rather than removing it outright. But turning off the recommendation algorithm for children altogether would amount to some sort of admission that it's the platform's architecture — not the content — that is the problem. 

It could also potentially affect revenue by moving a sizable chunk of videos off the platform, away from YouTube's advertisers. YouTube Kids does have ads, but there are additional requirements for advertisers there.

The Journal also reports that Google CEO Sundar Pichai has recently been taking a more active role in the management of YouTube, which is run by Susan Wojcicki. Recent scandals involving the wildfire-like spread of the Christchurch shooting video and pedophilia rings enabled by YouTube's recommendation algorithm have reportedly caused internal upheaval.

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In 2018, YouTube Kids added controls to allow parents to manually select the channels and creators that their kids would be able to watch. It also added more human moderators to remove harmful content. But not all kids watch videos on the Kids app alone, which means they currently could be exposed to the same algorithmic wormhole that adults are.

YouTube told the Journal that it considers "lots of ideas for improving YouTube and some remain just that—ideas."

UPDATE: June 19, 2019, 2:44 p.m. EDT 

Hours after the publication of the Journal article Thursday, the Washington Post published a report detailing a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) probe into YouTube for allegedly failing to protect children and for violating children's privacy. The investigation is reportedly in its "late stages," and will likely result in a fine and "reevaluation" of YouTube's business practices. 

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