YouTube is planning to release a new version of its YouTube Kids app that will do away with algorithmically suggested videos and will only display videos from channels that a team of YouTube curators handpicks, a source familiar with YouTube’s plans told BuzzFeed News.
The whitelisted version will be an option parents can select. It will exist alongside the algorithmic version.
By giving parents the option to turn off the algorithmically recommended videos, YouTube Kids will at least, in theory, no longer suggest conspiracy theory videos to children. It should also not show videos with problems similar to those that have surfaced on YouTube Kids in the past, such as sexually explicit language, profanity, and pedophilia jokes.
Last month, a Business Insider investigation revealed that YouTube Kids was suggesting a wide number of conspiracy videos to viewers, including "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' algorithm is tuned to show kids only kid-friendly content, but even YouTube admitted that it doesn't always do a great job. "Sometimes we miss the mark," the company told Business Insider.
The source told BuzzFeed News the whitelisted option of the app could be released within the coming weeks. It's designed to give parents an option where they can feel comfortable letting their kids watch videos on their own, without worrying that they might end up in the dark corners of the internet.
YouTube did not deny its plans for the app, but it told BuzzFeed News, "We are always working to update and improve YouTube Kids, however we don't comment on rumor or speculation."
As Facebook's worsening scandal is demonstrating, today's big technology companies take serious risks if they don't anticipate how the products they roll out could be misused. The YouTube Kids whitelist mode could be a sign of a new philosophy emerging, one that focuses on building intentional safeguards rather than applying the "move fast and break things" approach that originally guided Facebook and other tech giants.
Alex Kantrowitz is a senior technology reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in San Francisco. He reports on social and communications.
Contact Alex Kantrowitz at email@example.com.
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