As part of their recent crackdown on inappropriate or downright horrifying content that could end up being viewed by children, YouTube has terminated "Toy Freaks," a channel that had 8.53 million subscribers and featured videos of a single dad and his two daughters, Annabelle and Victoria, in various unnerving, downright stomach-turning situations.
According to blogger James Bridle, who addressed the issue of disturbing kid-targeted YouTube content in a now-viral Medium post on Nov. 6, described "Toy Freaks" as specializing “in gross-out situations, as well as activities which many, many viewers feel border on abuse and exploitation, if not cross the line entirely, including videos of the children vomiting and in pain.” In at least two clips, Chism walks into the bathroom as his daughters are bathing and scares them with animals. In others, Chism and his girls dress up like and pretend to be babies, spitting up and wetting themselves. Although the videos have been removed from YouTube, BuzzFeed downloaded several, including them in their report.
One glimpse at any of these video descriptions, and it's upsetting to think that it took YouTube so long to crack down on Chism. In a statement provided to BuzzFeed, a YouTube spokesperson explained their decision to finally take action: "We take child safety extremely seriously and have clear policies against child endangerment. We recently tightened the enforcement of these policies to tackle content featuring minors where we receive signals that cause concern. It’s not always clear that the uploader of the content intends to break our rules, but we may still remove their videos to help protect viewers, uploaders and children. We’ve terminated the Toy Freaks channel for violation of our policies. We will be conducting a broader review of associated content in conjunction with expert Trusted Flaggers.”
For his part, Chism told Variety that YouTube informed him “of concerns that my videos were attracting audience members who do not have childrens’ best interests in their hearts. Many YouTube community members expressed similar concerns, and their willingness to reach out to protect my children and all children from exploitation reinforces my faith in the YouTube community. Victoria, Annabelle and I want to thank our supporters as my girls have had the opportunity to develop their creativity and self-confidence over the past few years. Their future is bright. While it is disturbing to me that anyone would find inappropriate pleasure in our video skits, I deeply appreciate YouTube’s concerns for my family and I could not be happier with having had this remarkable experience.”
This news comes on the coattails of the Google-owned platform's statement earlier this month about a new policy that will age restrict disturbing content aimed at kids in the YouTube main app when it's called out by "Trusted Flaggers," or YouTube users who report individual clips. With hope, this new policy and new action against "Toy Freaks" and similar channels are a sign that the tide is turning when it comes to YouTube taking responsibility for problematic content.
Malik Ducard, YouTube’s global head of family and learning content, told The New York Times earlier this month, “Making the app family friendly is of the utmost importance to us." Fingers crossed they continue to prove that's the case.