YouTube has admitted that users were shown ‘profoundly disturbing’ search results when they innocently tried to look for videos.
Over the weekend, it emerged that the video site’s search system was ‘autocompleting’ innocuous phrases in the most shocking way.
Social media lit up with claims that people who searched for the phrase ‘how to have’ were shown results including ‘how to have s*x with your kids’.
We contacted YouTube this morning and the Google-owned site told us it was investigating the problem as a matter of urgency.
You can see evidence of this appalling autocomplete error in the tweets below.
Don't even need "how to have". Just "how to h" to get results. Based on this I believe Youtube wants me to hack my kids video game, hypnotize them as I tell them how much I hate lil wayne, and then rape them. pic.twitter.com/iCVvxEVa0s
— WeWuzMetokur (@WeWuzMetokur) November 27, 2017
In a statement, a YouTube spokeswoman said: ‘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.
‘We are investigating this matter to determine what was behind the appearance of this autocompletion.’
Autocomplete works by anticipating what people are likely to search for.
So, for instance, if you go to Google today and type ‘Harry’ then it’s likely you will be shown the phrase ‘Harry and Meghan engaged’because lots of people are currently searching for news of Prince Harry’s engagement to Meghan Markle.
An article on Buzzfeed suggested the problem was caused by trolls carrying out vast numbers of searches for the phrase ‘how to have s*x with your kids’, which would make it seem as if the phrase was a popular search.
A YouTuber called BlackAcidLizzard wrote: ‘I suppose it’s also possible that some paedo network has spammed the Youtube search bar with this millions of times to make the algorithm bump this to the top.’
There are not believed to actually be any videos on YouTube offering advice to paedophile parents.
It seems likely that trolls or someone else who wants to damage YouTube has used ‘bots’ to carry out vast numbers of searches.
The asterix was probably put in the word ‘s*x’ so it dodged the attention of YouTube for long enough to become an autocomplete term, because the video site would have noticed if lots of people appeared to be searching using requests which contain the word ‘sex’.
Last week, YouTube vowed to take ‘aggressive’ action to ban paedophiles after several top brands pulled adverts from the site over fears they were appearing next to videos exploited by ‘predatory’ accounts.
There are estimated to be tens of thousands of dodgy YouTube accounts whose owners take a sick pleasure from leaving disgusting comments beneath videos of children.
Several global brands are reported to have pulled adverts from YouTube on the eve of Black Friday, one of the biggest shopping days of the year after investigators exposed the paedophiles.