Spoof Peppa Pig videos bypass YouTube and YouTube Kids filters

Occurred: March 2017-

Inappropriate knock-offs of Peppa Pig, Nickelodeon's PAW Patrol, and other kids' TV shows bypassed YouTube's automated safety filters, frightening young children and disturbing their parents.

A 2017 BBC investigation discovered on YouTube and YouTube Kids hundreds of videos of well-known children's cartoon characters, including Peppa Pig, PAW Patrol, Doc McStuffins, and Thomas the Tank Engine. 

These videos incorporated creepy and disturbing content that passed for real cartoons when viewed by kids, including animated violence and graphic toilet humour, and had not been detected by YouTube's screening software partly as their creators had used animation and keywords targeting children to circumvent it. 

YouTube responded by advising parents to use its YouTube Kids app and turn on 'restricted mode'. It also removed some of the videos flagged by the BBC. Months later, YouTube introduced a policy that age restricted content deemed an inappropriate use of family cartoon characters on the YouTube main app when flagged. 

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), a coalition of children’s and consumers advocacy groups, had complained to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about 'disturbing' and 'harmful' content on YouTube Kids when the channel launched in May 2015.

Developer: Alphabet/Google/YouTube
Country: USA; UK
Sector: Media/entertainment/sports/arts
Purpose: Recommendation algorithm; Machine learning
Technology: Recommend content
Issue: Safety
Transparency: Governance; Black box

Investigations, assessments, audits 🧐