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Friday, 22 February 2019 08:51

YouTube nasties one more reason for ACCC to crack down on Google Featured

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YouTube nasties one more reason for ACCC to crack down on Google Pixabay

Google has provided the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission another good reason to investigate the algorithms it uses for its ad network after its YouTube network was found to be harbouring paedophiles who share videos showing the exploitation of children.

A number of well-known companies, such as AT&T, Nestle, Disney, Fortnite maker Epic Games and German food giant Dr August Oetker pulled their ads after a report highlighted the issue with YouTube, more or less a repeat of what happened two years ago.

The head of Google Australia, Mel Silva, argued in a blog post on Thursday, that some of the ACCC's recommendations like an algorithm regulator would provide a poor outcome in its probe into the dominance of online companies in advertising and the impact it has on journalism in Australia.

YouTube also uses algorithms to try and find out unsuitable videos, but some of the technology it uses has produced less than stellar results leading to the banning of perfectly legitimate videos, mostly from smaller contributors who often make a living through the enterprise.

The New York Times ran a story in 2017, which began, "Over the years, Google trained computer systems to keep copyrighted content and pornography off its YouTube service." Obviously those systems are not up to scratch if paedophiles are using YouTube to indulge themselves and exploit children.

Last year, the non-profit Campaign for Accountability exposed the lax policing of Google's ad service by buying divisive ads on the search engine's service using Russian roubles and a Russian IP address.

The British division of the American website Wired also ran a story on the YouTube issues. It said, in part: "Videos of children showing their exposed buttocks, underwear and genitals are racking up millions of views on YouTube — with the site displaying advertising from major cosmetics and car brands alongside the content.

"Comments beneath scores of videos appear to show paedophiles sharing timestamps for parts of the videos where exposed genitals can be seen, or when a child does the splits or lifts up their top to show their nipples...

"The videos are also being monetised by YouTube, including pre-roll adverts from Alfa Romeo, Fiat, Fortnite, Grammarly, L'Oreal, Maybelline, Metro: Exodus, Peloton and SingleMuslims.com. Banner advertising for Google and the World Business Forum also appeared alongside some of the videos."

Given the lax manner in which the parent company Alphabet polices its properties, the ACCC should lead the way by hitting Google really hard and where it hurts. And that's by regulating the algorithms it uses. Nothing else will keep the company in line.

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Sam Varghese

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Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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