Google has raked in millions of pounds in advertising revenue from videos that exploit young children and even appeal to paedophiles.
One channel which has attracted billions of views on YouTube, owned by the search giant, features clips of sisters aged seven and nine in baby clothes, sucking dummies and being scared by snakes.
According to analysts, the Toy Freaks channel which was shut down by YouTube last week earns the girls’ father up to £8.7million a year, with Google collecting up to a further £7.1million.
Major UK firms including Which? and Iceland responded to the revelation revealed in a probe by The Times newspaper by suspending advertising on the video-sharing site. The row comes after Google and Facebook were criticised for failing to block videos glorifying terrorism.
The Toy Freaks channel was set up two years ago by Greg Chism, of Illinois, initially featuring apparently innocent videos of him fooling about with daughters Annabelle and Victoria.
But his strategy of analysing which films attract most views has seen footage enter bizarre areas. One clip showed one of the sisters bleeding from the mouth and crying after losing a milk tooth, while another featuring them in a swimming pool is said to pander to paedophiles.
With more than 500 videos over six years, at one point last summer Toy Freaks was YouTube’s most watched channel. On Friday it was deleted after YouTube said it ‘violated’ its community guidelines.
‘The content is not technically illegal but it is highly suggestive, as is the camerawork, which seems to be more that of a pornographic film than a children’s channel,’ she added. Yamaha Music told the paper it was appalled that it was advertised on Toy Freaks and suspended its campaign. Meanwhile YouTube said that it took child safety extremely seriously and had tightened its policies.
Many links remained live despite being reported to Google. Prime Minister Theresa May has demanded web giants develop technology to block the material. The firms say they need users to flag up inappropriate material but are developing software to remove it.
Last night Google failed to comment, but in a statement on Saturday it said: ‘It’s not always clear that the uploader of the content intends to break our rules, but we may still remove their videos to help protect viewers, uploaders and children.’
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