YouTube steps up takedowns as concerns about kids' videos grow

(Reuters) – YouTube stepped up enforcement of its guidelines for videos aimed at children, the unit of Alphabet Inc’s (GOOGL.O) Google said on Wednesday, responding to criticism that it has failed to protect children from adult content.

A 3D-printed YouTube icon is seen in front of a displayed YouTube logo in this illustration taken October 25, 2017. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Ilustration

The streaming video service removed more than 50 user channels in the last week and stopped running ads on over 3.5 million videos since June, YouTube vice president Johanna Wright wrote in a blog post.

“Across the board we have scaled up resources to ensure that thousands of people are working around the clock to monitor, review and make the right decisions across our ads and content policies,” Wright said. “These latest enforcement changes will take shape over the weeks and months ahead as we work to tackle this evolving challenge.”

YouTube has become one of Google’s fastest-growing operations in terms of sales by simplifying the process of distributing video online but putting in place few limits on content.

Parents, regulators, advertisers and law enforcement have become increasingly concerned about the open nature of the service. They have contended that Google must do more to banish and restrict access to inappropriate videos, whether it be propaganda from religious extremists and Russia or comedy skits that appear to show children being forcibly drowned.

Concerns about children’s videos gained new force in the last two weeks after reports in BuzzFeed and the New York Times and an online essay by British writer James Bridle pointed out questionable clips.

A forum on the Reddit internet platform dubbed ElsaGate, based on the Walt Disney Co (DIS.N) princess, also became a repository of problematic videos.

Several forum posts Wednesday showed support for YouTube’s actions while noting that vetting must expand even further.

Common Sense Media, an organization that monitors children’s content online, did not immediately respond to a request to comment about YouTube’s announcement.

YouTube’s Wright cited “a growing trend around content on YouTube that attempts to pass as family-friendly, but is clearly not” for the new efforts “to remove them from YouTube.”

The company relies on review requests from users, a panel of experts and an automated computer program to help its moderators identify material possibly worth removing.

Moderators now are instructed to delete videos “featuring minors that may be endangering a child, even if that was not the uploader’s intent,” Wright said. Videos with popular characters “but containing mature themes or adult humor” will be restricted to adults, she said.

In addition, commenting functionality will be disabled on any videos where comments refer to children in a “sexual or predatory” manner.

Reporting by Paresh Dave; editing by Clive McKeef

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Uber says cyber breach compromised data of 57 million users, drivers

(Reuters) – Uber Technologies Inc [UBER.UL] failed to disclose a massive breach last year that exposed the data of some 57 million users of the ride-sharing service, the company’s new chief executive officer said on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Uber CEO Travis Kalanick speaks to students during an interaction at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) campus in Mumbai, India, January 19, 2016. REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

Discovery of the company’s handling of the incident led to the departure of two employees who led Uber’s response to the incident, said Dara Khosrowshahi, who was named CEO in August following the departure of founder Travis Kalanick.

Khosrowshahi said he had only recently learned of the matter himself.

The company’s admission that it failed to disclose the breach comes as Uber seeks to recover from a series of crises that culminated in the Kalanick’s ouster in June.

“None of this should have happened, and I will not make excuses for it,” Khosrowshahi said in a blog post.

According to the company’s account, two individuals downloaded data from a web-based server at another company that provided Uber with cloud-computing services.

The data contained names, email addresses and mobile phone numbers of some 57 million Uber users around the world. The hackers also downloaded names and driver’s license numbers of some 600,000 of the company’s U.S. drivers, Khosrowshahi said in a blog post.

Bloomberg News reported that Uber’s chief security officer Joe Sullivan and a deputy had been ousted from the company this week because of their role in the handling of the incident. The company paid hackers $100,000 to delete the stolen data, according to Bloomberg.

FILE PHOTO: The logo of Uber is seen on an iPad, during a news conference to announce Uber resumes ride-hailing service, in Taipei, Taiwan April 13, 2017. REUTERS/Tyrone Siu/File Photo –

Though such payoffs are rarely discussed in public, U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation officials and private security companies have told Reuters in the past year that an increasing number of companies have made payments to criminal hackers who have turned to extortion.

None have previously come to light that aimed to suppress breaches that would have required public disclosure, such as those involving protected personal information.

The chief executive of Uber Technologies Inc, Dara Khosrowshahi attends a meeting with Brazilian Finance Minister Henrique Meirelles (not pictured) in Brasilia, Brazil October 31, 2017. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Sullivan did not immediately return messages seeking comment.

Sullivan, formerly the top security official at Facebook Inc (FB.O), is a former federal prosecutor and one of the most admired security executives in Silicon Valley.

Kalanick learned of the breach a month after it took place, in November 2016, as the company was in negotiations with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission over the handling of consumer data, according to Bloomberg.

Uber representatives did not respond when asked to comment on the Bloomberg report.

Khosrowshahi said he had hired Matt Olsen, former general counsel of the U.S. National Security Agency, to help him figure out how to best guide and structure the company’s security teams and processes.

“While I can’t erase the past, I can commit on behalf of every Uber employee that we will learn from our mistakes,” he said. “We are changing the way we do business, putting integrity at the core of every decision we make and working hard to earn the trust of our customers.”

Reporting by Jim Finkle in Toronto; Additional reporting by Joseph Menn in San Francisco; Editing by Tom Brown

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.