Hawley Accuses YouTube of Prioritizing Revenue over Children’s Safety
Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)
Senator Josh Hawley (R., Mo.) accused YouTube of prioritizing revenue over children’s safety during a Tuesday hearing.
Addressing his colleagues on the Judiciary Committee, the freshman lawmaker lambasted YouTube executives for refusing to change their automated recommendation system after a recent New York Times report found that the algorithm curates videos of “prepubescent, partially clothed children” for predatory adult users.
“This report was sickening, but I think what was even more sickening was YouTube’s refusal to do anything about it,” Hawley said. “YouTube admitted that they could do something about it, they could stop auto-referring these videos of minors to pedophiles, but they chose not to do so. Why not? Because their model is that 70 percent of their traffic comes from these auto-recommended videos. In other words, there is ad revenue that would be lost if they actually took some enforcement steps here, took some steps to stop this exploitation of children.”
Hawley, who has recently emerged as the foremost Republican critic of the tech industry, went on to urge his colleagues to support a “common sense” bill he recently introduced with Senator Ed Markey (D., Mass.) that would ban video platforms such as YouTube from automatically recommending videos of children.
Hawley introduced the bill one day after reports emerged that the Federal Trade Commission is investigating YouTube over possible violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Hawley introduced separate legislation in March that would prohibit platforms from collecting information from users under 13 without parental consent.
YouTube has recently taken certain steps to protect children from predators, including prohibiting children from live-streaming unless they are accompanied by an adult and disabling comments on videos of children. However, the platform has thus far resisted Hawley’s call to stop automatically recommending videos of children entirely — a decision Hawley believes is entirely attributable to greed.