Epic Games has pulled all pre-roll ads from YouTube amid an ongoing controversy over videos and comments that appear to exploit children on the video platform.
Ads for the company’s smash-hit battle royale title Fortnite, as well as ads from other major companies, including Google itself, play ahead of videos featuring children on YouTube. As YouTuber Matt Watson observed in a video posted earlier this week that has since gone viral, many of these videos appear to be followed closely by child predators, who add inappropriate comments or add timestamps to moments in the video that appear to sexualize the children.
In the video, Watson explains how YouTube’s algorithm can lead a person into a loop of videos of children simply by searching a few specific words. From a fresh YouTube account, Watson was able to gain access to the rabbit hole of videos in about five minutes. After searching specific terms and clicking a few videos, his entire recommended section was filled with videos of children, and nearly all of these videos had inappropriate comments beneath them. Many of these videos had ads connected to them as well and, in the examples shown, one was for Fortnite.
As a result, Epic pulled all pre-roll ads from the service. In a statement given to the Verge, Epic said through its advertising agency it reached out to Google and YouTube to determine how the website will keep this type of content off its platform.
YouTube told the Verge it has taken “immediate action” by deleting many accounts and channels, as well as reporting illegal activity to the authorities and removing comments. YouTube added that this type of content and language is strictly prohibited on its website and that the company has policies prohibiting the endangerment of minors.