On Monday, the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications ordered domestic video sites to run a self-check and delete all videos containing violent and inappropriate content targeted towards children.
The incident, also known as ‘Elsagate,’ refers to content found on YouTube with perverted themes disguised as child-friendly videos. The short films usually star favorite characters such as Elsa (hence the name), Spider Man and Peppa Pig, and are often titled using child-oriented names like ‘Silly Hero Fun.’ However, the plots shown in the videos are anything but ‘fun,’ with Elsa, for example, frequently depicted undertaking gruesome surgeries or falling pregnant.
Children can be easily lured into watching these videos by characters they love, and as a result become affected by the content. To make things worse, whenever a video has finished, the site will automatically recommend similar videos to continue watching. “Little kids haven’t developed full abilities to tell right from wrong,” remarks Chen Mo, educationalist for children’s mentality. “Long-term exposure to taboo content may form false recognition.”
After the incident was put under a spotlight, YouTube deleted over 50 channels and 150 thousand videos.
Last week, Elsagate was brought to attention in China when a netizen translated an article originally published on reddit, and posted it on Weibo. The article was titled ‘A group of perverts are targeting kids on YouTube. I used to work for them,’ and the author shared his negative experience working at one of these perverted animation companies.
That’s when Chinese netizens discovered that a number of these supposedly deleted videos had made their way to domestic sites, and some were even produced by local studios. Shangzhichao, an account on Youku, has uploaded 734 harmful videos and each of them has been played more than 10 thousand times. The account has now been banned by Youku.
On January 20, Tencent, Youku and iQIYI, three major local video platforms, made an official statement advising they have commenced a cleanup campaign. Obscene videos will be deleted immediately with the uploader’s account banned. Also, keywords such as ‘Elsa’ and ‘Spider Man’ have been blocked. Two days later, on January 22, Sohu also joined the campaign.
This Monday, the National Office Against Pornographic and Illegal Publications posted on its official Weibo that they will keep an eye on this issue. Any company continuing to produce or spread the illegal content will receive severe penalties. At the same time, they welcome contact from the public to advise any inappropriate sites and online content.
For now, we believe a large amount of the unacceptable content has been removed. However, let’s be extra diligent and keep an eye on what our little ones are watching, to ensure they are not exposed to videos posted by those with harmful intentions.