YouTube removed videos from conspiracy theorist David Icke after we contacted the company.
- The YouTube Kids app is meant to filter out unsuitable content, but we found that it suggested that children watch conspiracy theory videos.
- The app suggested several videos from prominent conspiracy theorist David Icke in which he claimed that the world is ruled by reptile-human hybrids.
- Searches for "moon landing" returned results including three videos which claim the moon landing was a hoax.
- YouTube removed at least 25 videos from its Kids app after we contacted the company and blocked Icke's channel on the app.
YouTube's app specifically for children is meant to filter out adult content and provide a "world of learning and fun," but Business Insider found that YouTube Kids featured many conspiracy theory videos which make claims that the world is flat, that the moon landing was faked, and that the planet is ruled by reptile-human hybrids.
YouTube Kids is a separate app from the main YouTube app, and it's meant to allow parents to let their children browse YouTube without being worried about any unsuitable content appearing. Children are encouraged to learn languages, read books, and watch educational videos.
Search for "UFO" on YouTube Kids and you'll mostly find videos of toys that are clearly fine for children to watch. But one of the top videos claimed to show a UFO shooting at a chemtrail, and we found several videos by prominent conspiracy theorist David Icke in the suggested videos. YouTube removed the videos from YouTube Kids after we contacted it about the issue.
One suggested video was an hours-long lecture by Icke in which he claims that aliens built the pyramids, that the planet is run by reptile-human hybrids, that Freemasons engage in human sacrifice, that the assassination of President Kennedy was planned by the US government, and that humans would evolve in 2012.
Two other conspiracy theory videos by Icke appeared in the related videos, meaning it was easy for children to quickly go from watching relatively innocent videos about toys to conspiracy content.
YouTube said in a statement to Business Insider that "sometimes we miss the mark" on content appearing on YouTube Kids and said it would "continue to work to improve the YouTube Kids app experience."
Here's the full statement from YouTube:
"The YouTube Kids app is home to a wide variety of content that includes enriching and entertaining videos for families. This content is screened using human trained systems. That being said, no system is perfect and sometimes we miss the mark. When we do, we take immediate action to block the videos or, as necessary, channels from appearing in the app. We will continue to work to improve the YouTube Kids app experience."
YouTube Kids is meant to block unsuitable content
The YouTube Kids app blocks searches for most unsuitable videos. Search "9/11" or "porn" and you find no results. But we found that buried in the app's suggested videos were conspiracy videos that children could stumble on.
Conspiracy theory videos appear in search results
If you searched for "moon landing" on YouTube Kids, three videos appeared that claim that the moon landing was hoaxed. All three videos have since been hidden by YouTube after we informed it of the issue.
Following related videos that appear in YouTube Kids, we ended up watching a video that claims that a gateway to a new world had opened, and that a female employee working on the Large Hadron Collider mysteriously vanished in a magic portal.
Through YouTube Kids' suggested videos feature, we also found videos from conspiracy theorists Ben Davidson, Gerald Pollack, and Wallace Thornhill. YouTube removed the specific videos that we sent it, but many other videos by the conspiracy theorists remain in the app.
Conspiracy videos also appear when children search for popular conspiracy theories. Searches for "chemtrails," "flat earth," and "nibiru" are all allowed in the app. However, it's (hopefully) unlikely that children are regularly watching these videos unless they appear as suggestions on more popular content in the app.
The conspiracy videos didn't just appear in searches or suggested videos, either. After watching several conspiracy videos, the top recommended video on the home page of YouTube Kids was a conspiracy theory about aliens on the moon:
This issue with the YouTube Kids app shows the problem with YouTube's suggested videos algorithm. The suggested videos try to convince you to watch related content after your current video ends.
That's fine when it's adults watching the main YouTube site, but children on YouTube Kids can easily go from innocent content about the moon landing to Icke claiming lizard people rule the world.
YouTube Kids criticised for featuring inappropriate videos
This isn't the first time that YouTube Kids was found to feature videos that weren't suitable for children. In 2017, the app was criticised in a lengthy Medium post by author James Bridle after he found disturbing videos targeted at children.
"Someone or something or some combination of people and things is using YouTube to systematically frighten, traumatise, and abuse children, automatically and at scale," Bridle wrote.
In November, YouTube published a blog post in which it promised to remove "unacceptable" videos from YouTube Kids.
YouTube is fighting against fake news and conspiracy theories
Conspiracy theorists are allowed to publish videos on YouTube, but the company doesn't want people to be mislead by what they publish. So it's going to add some text from Wikipedia explaining that the world is in fact round.
It's part of an ongoing campaign by YouTube to stop misleading videos. Recently, a video accusing Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg of being an actor was featured prominently on YouTube. YouTube featured a false video about Hogg at the top of its trending chart, but later removed it.