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Parents beware: As Logan Paul controversy reminds us, YouTube is not a safe place for kids

<b>Scott D. Pierce • </b>New measures at YouTube feel like a PR ploy in wake of Paul‘s suicide victim video posting.

In this Oct. 21, 2015, file photo, Robert Kyncl, YouTube chief business officer, speaks as YouTube unveils "YouTube Red," a new subscription service, at YouTube Space LA offices in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Danny Moloshok, File)

Pasadena, Calif. • There’s a lot of public hand-wringing going on at YouTube right now about Logan Paul — there’s even a new policy that thousands of hours of its most popular content will be reviewed by humans before it’s posted — but it’s all a farce.

YouTube is still not doing much to prevent inappropriate material from being posted on its site. And the changes are because parent company Google fears advertiser pullouts, not to protect underage viewers.

YouTube is in the business of making money, and if that meant that people like Paul did idiotic things like post videos of suicide victims hanging from trees, then … oh, well.

On Dec. 31, Paul uploaded a video to his YouTube channel showing a man who had hanged himself in Japan. It was seen by millions of viewers and received hundreds of thousands of “likes” before — facing online backlash — Paul removed it and apologized.

FILE - In this Aug. 13, 2017 file photo, Logan Paul speaks at the Teen Choice Awards at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. YouTube has suspended the star who posted video images of what appeared to be a suicide victim but said Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 that doesn't mean it won't work with him in the future. (Photo by Phil McCarten/Invision/AP, File)

He insisted he wasn’t mocking the victim, but Paul joked, laughed and wore a goofy hat while standing next to him. And, remember, this wasn’t live — Paul edited that into the video he posted.

YouTube didn’t review that video before it was posted. It didn’t review any videos. The new policy is only for Google Preferred videos, and only to allay the fears of advertisers. YouTube won’t say what percentage of its videos will be reviewed, but it will be a tiny fraction — hundreds of hours of video are uploaded every minute, and no company has the staff to review that much footage.

But the Paul incident tells us how the thinking works at YouTube. The company eventually issued a statement that the video with the suicide victim violated its policies. It took the company another 10 days to issue a longer statement that promised it will take steps “to ensure a video like this is never circulated again.”

Clearly, reviewing a tiny percentage of videos will not ensure any such thing.

And, meeting with TV critics, YouTube’s chief business officer, Robert Kyncl, offered an explanation that sounded a lot like — boys will be boys.

We work with lots of YouTube stars ... and some of them are very young and sometimes get themselves in hot water,” Kyncl said.

Logan Paul is not a child. He’s 22. He’s an adult who doesn’t know it’s inappropriate to post a video of a suicide victim hanging from a tree.

It’s not like Paul has a spotless record. He’s posted videos that feature dangerous stunts, and sexist and homophobic content. But he makes money for himself and for YouTube.

Kyncl was in full damage-control mode, but some of his statements were utter nonsense. “I’m not sure that there’s that much difference between YouTube or a TV network,” he said.

That’s ludicrous. TV networks can and do make mistakes, but they review everything before they put it on the air.

With the exception of Google Preferred content, YouTube relies on “community guidelines,” which means the “community” applies pressure AFTER a video is posted.

The future is in making sure that our community guidelines are the ones that protect the community, whether it’s creators, advertisers or users, and those can evolve with the sentiment of the world,” Kyncl said vaguely.

FILE - in this Thursday, Oct. 22, 1998, file photo a group of schoolchildren read signs posted in the dense woods of the Aokigahara Forest at the base of Mount Fuji, Japan.YouTube says it has removed blogger Logan Paul's channels from Google Preferred and will not feature him in the new season of "Foursome." Paul's new video blogs also are on hold after he shared a video on YouTube that appeared to show a body hanging in a Japanese forest that is said to be a suicide spot. The sign at right reads: "Your life is a precious gift from your parents. Once again, try to remember your parents, brothers and sisters and think about your children." (AP Photo/Atsushi Tsukada, File)

And he went out of his way to defend Paul for his “unfortunate missteps. He’s expressed remorse very quickly and is learning from the experience.”

YouTube removed Paul’s videos from Google Preferred linuep; all of its projects with him are “on hold.” But they haven’t cut ties with him.

Actions should speak louder than words, and Logan has the opportunity to prove that,” Kyncl said.

Actions do speak louder than words. And YouTube’s actions tell us that they’re just waiting for this storm to blow over before reinstating Paul. And, with the new policy for Google Preferred content, that looks like a slam dunk.

We’ll see in the future,” Kyncl said. “We don’t know. I couldn’t really answer that. Everything is evolving so fast.”

Suspending Paul is just a PR ploy. So is everything Kyncl said. So is the new policy.

Look, YouTube is what it is. It’s not going to change. But it shouldn’t pretend it’s a safe place. It’s never has been. It never will be.

It’s up to parents to police what their kids watch. You’ve got to do that job yourself, because YouTube is not going to do it for you.

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