YouTube How To Have

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YouTube has a troubling autofill problem, and it’s potentially exploiting children

YouTube is investigating.


Josh Katzowitz


Published Nov 27, 2017   Updated May 22, 2021, 9:51 am CDT

Less than a week after YouTube said it had begun cracking down on strange child exploitation videos and offered a five-point plan as a solution, the video site is still experiencing problems with potential pedophilia. In this case, the culprit is a disturbing bug in its search autofill.

BuzzFeed reported that a number of users discovered that a YouTube search for “how to have” would autocomplete with phrases like “how to have s*x with your kids” and “how to have s*x kids.”

The initial media report was posted on Sunday night, but late Monday morning, the disturbing suggestions were still there. Using incognito mode on Google Chrome, this was what autofilled.

YouTube How To Have
Photo via YouTube

YouTube said that the bug has been fixed, but others on Twitter reported that the pedophiliac results were still visible to them as well. The company said it was investigating the problem.

“Earlier today our teams were alerted to this profoundly disturbing autocomplete result and we worked to quickly remove it as soon as we were made aware,” a YouTube spokesperson told the Daily Dot. “We are investigating this matter to determine what was behind the appearance of this autocompletion.”

That’s the same statement YouTube gave to BuzzFeed on Sunday night. The company also responded on Twitter.

The autofills are usually based on the popularity of certain search terms, but according to the BuzzFeed report, these results (especially with the asterisk in the middle of sex) could be caused by trolls who are coordinating with each other to game the algorithm. Wrote BuzzFeed: “Motivated trolls, for example, could theoretically search for ‘how to have s*x with your kids’ with enough frequency in order to make the search result appear far more popular than it is.”

Last week, while it was under fire for the kinds of videos that featured a clown kidnapping a child and stuffing him into a washing machine and other clips of children being splattered by fake blood at the dentist, YouTube offered a solution with these five prongs: a tougher application of its community guidelines, removing ads from inappropriate videos geared toward families, blocking inappropriate comments from videos featuring children, giving more company guidance to its family-friendly channels, and hiring experts for more help.

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*First Published: Nov 27, 2017, 1:34 pm CST