Epic Games has halted Fortnite pre-roll ads on YouTube after a report surfaced indicating that ads from major corporations were playing ahead of videos used by online predators to exploit children. The move comes following the report of a "softcore pedophile ring" on YouTube that came to light earlier this week via Matt Watson, who also posted a lengthy message about it on Reddit.
"Youtube’s recommended algorithm is facilitating pedophiles’ ability to connect with each-other, trade contact info, and link to actual child pornography in the comments," Watson wrote.
"I can consistently get access to it from vanilla, never-before-used Youtube accounts via innocuous videos in less than 10 minutes, in sometimes less than five clicks. I have made a twenty [minute] Youtube video showing the process, and where there is video evidence that these videos are being monetized by big brands like McDonald’s and Disney."
Fortnite doesn't appear in the report, but Epic appears to be moving proactively to avoid any entanglements. "We have paused all pre-roll advertising," an Epic rep told The Verge. "Through our advertising agency, we have reached out to Google/YouTube to determine actions they’ll take to eliminate this type of content from their service."
As far as I can tell there's nothing explicitly illegal in the clips Watson shared, but it is extraordinarily uncomfortable and, as he demonstrates through the comments attached to numerous videos, clearly intended to sexualize and exploit children. A YouTube rep said the videos he highlighted have since been removed, and illegal activity reported where it was found. "Violative comments" have also been disabled.
"Any content—including comments—that endangers minors is abhorrent and we have clear policies prohibiting this on YouTube," a rep said. "There’s more to be done, and we continue to work to improve and catch abuse more quickly."
This isn't the first time companies have pulled support from YouTube in response to a major issue. As reported by Business Insider, more than 250 companies pulled their advertisements from YouTube in 2017 after a Times of London report revealed that they were running ahead of, and helping fund, "Islamic extremists, white supremacists, and pornographers."
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