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Tweaking the dials

TECHNOLOGY | YouTube updates video recommendations for teens

Illustration by Krieg Barrie

Tweaking the dials
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YouTube has begun restricting how often it recommends videos involving topics such as body image or “social aggression” to its teenage users. Now, teenagers surfing the video-sharing platform receive fewer automatic suggestions for video content that “compares physical features,” “idealizes specific fitness levels,” or displays “non-contact fights and intimidation,” according to a YouTube blog post on Nov. 2.

The company’s move comes after several school districts and states have sued YouTube or other social media companies they say are contributing to a mental health crisis. In its Nov. 2 statement, YouTube acknowledged that repeated viewing of videos that promote unhealthy standards could contribute to declining mental health. Its new video recommendation controls have taken effect in the United States and will be expanded to other countries over the next year.

In 2018, YouTube created its Youth and Families Advisory Committee to assess how teenagers are affected by content they see online. The company has also installed more noticeable reminders for teenage users to take a break and expanded a resource panel that connects users with live crisis ­service providers.

Blacklisted app

On Oct. 30 Canadian officials banned the popular Chinese messaging app WeChat from official ­government cell phones. The ban also includes apps from Russian antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab. The Treasury Board of Canada said the apps presented a cybersecurity risk since they gain “considerable access” to a mobile device’s content. Canada in February instituted a similar ban on video app TikTok.

In the United States, some governors have signed similar prohibitions on WeChat and TikTok on state-issued devices. Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine in January signed an executive order banning multiple Chinese-owned apps from government phones. Wisconsin, North Carolina, Montana, and Virginia have similar restrictions in place.

Former President Donald Trump in 2020 attempted to ban WeChat and TikTok across the United States but was blocked by the courts. President Joe Biden later revoked Trump’s orders. —L.C.

Coldsnowstorm/Getty Images

Anti-Semitism in the comments

Dangerous content on YouTube isn’t limited to unhealthy body image videos: An analysis published Oct. 31 by the U.K.-based advocacy group Institute for Strategic Dialogue found that anti-Semitic comments on YouTube increased by nearly 5,000 percent in the days following the Oct. 7 Hamas terrorist attack on Israel. The organization found that anti-Semitic comments also spiked on alternative social media channels like 4chan and Gab. —L.C.

Lauren Canterberry

Lauren Canterberry is a reporter for WORLD. She graduated from the World Journalism Institute and the University of Georgia with a degree in journalism, both in 2017. She worked as a local reporter in Texas and now lives in Georgia with her husband.


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