YouTube has removed a controversial kids-oriented channel following a New York Times story and viral Medium post that catalogued the kinds of strange and often disturbing videos that target young viewers on the platform.
Toy Freaks, a channel that had more than 7 million subscribers with over 6 billion views according to rankings from SocialBlade, is gone completely with a note that says, “This account has been terminated for violating YouTube's Community Guidelines.”
Toy Freaks featured a father and his two daughters performing in skits that often include gross-out themes or play on the “Bad Baby” trope, in which the kids scream, yell things like “poop,” throw candy, and generally act like unhinged brats. The videos were apparently popular with kids but repeatedly criticized by parents and sometimes called child abuse. One video, which features a child crying and bleeding from her mouth after losing a tooth, was repeatedly called out by critics. Another similar channel, DaddyOFive, disappeared in May after other prominent YouTubers and parents complained that the pranks parents played on their children were child abuse. Those parents lost custody of two of their kids as a result.
Other YouTube channels aimed at kids reported having individual videos removed. “Youtube has removed 2 of our videos. It appears the problem is widespread with major kids channels being affected,” wrote one KiddieToysReview on a forum for YouTube creators. “Like a thief in the night - there was no email, no warning, no transparency.” Most of the channels and videos cited in the viral Medium post were still up as of this writing, however.
The changes follow YouTube’s announcement that it would be age-restricting more videos to ensure they did not show up on the YouTube Kids app, which is for children under 13.
We’ve written before about the ecosystem of kids’ videos on YouTube, which include knock-off characters, violence, and anti-social behavior. In the past, YouTube rewarded this type of video with clicks, subscribers, and monetization through automated ads. (The father behind the Toy Freaks account previous had a channel about lawn care; he switched his focus after realizing that the kids’ genre was more lucrative.) Although debates over what kids should watch are nothing new, this has resulted in the creation of bizarre and often repugnant videos on a staggering scale. The takedown efforts have inspired a backlash from some kids’ video creators, but the broader reaction to these videos — which feature things like superheroes being buried alive, beloved cartoons drinking bleach, and children being force-fed and then throwing up — has been to forcefully condem them. It seems like an obvious win for YouTube, which needs to please concerned parents and advertisers.