YouTuber Makenna Kelly, better known as Life with MaK, has recently resolved to leave YouTube following a number of professional problems with the platform. Several of her videos had been forcibly removed as part of YouTube’s effort to address the problem of its growing pedophilic population. Makenna, however, has called out their actions as discriminatory towards her age.
The 13-year-old who has worked for her 1.5 million subscribers feels she is being run out of the platform for faults that are not hers. She questions why she is the one being punished for actions perpetrated by others. Aside from her videos being removed, she has had issues with YouTube being unresponsive to her complaints of an adult YouTuber “sexually cyberbullying” her.
Ultimately, the conflict derives from YouTube’s vague video guidelines and unclear management of ASMR videos. ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, is that feeling of tingling you experience when hearing certain sounds. It’s become an online trend to try to incite those reactions through actions like chewing into a mic or clinking their nails on a surface. While most viewers enjoy this in a wholesome manner, there is a select portion of people who find it sexually stimulating.
When content that could be considered sexual is created and posted by a minor, YouTube is then obliged to step in. However, the standards they have used for stepping in seem quite arbitrary to Makenna. A popular honeycomb video of hers that garnered nearly 14 million views was taken down because the food was “sticky” and could be understood as sexual. Her contestation is that YouTube has let scores of other content from different minors stay up despite them being potentially sexual.
She explained to Daily Dot:
I love doing ASMR and I have no issues with following the rules of YouTube, but I do have a problem with them treating me different than other minors. I think most people could name several teenagers on YouTube that do and say extremely questionable things on a regular basis, yet I’m over here feeling like a bad person for eating honeycomb.
The double standards were even more apparent to Makenna when she reached out to the company when an adult YouTuber allegedly “sexually cyberbullied” her. She elaborates:
It’s ironic that (YouTube keeps) saying they are ‘trying to protect me’ yet when this issue was brought up to three of their employees, they completely ignored it. They did not care one bit about a grown man calling me offensive and derogatory names and making lewd sexual comments about me on their platform.
Yet the “softcore pedophile ring” is a growing problem that YouTube truly does need to respond to. Apparently, a report shows that YouTube’s algorithm has enabled pedophiles through the ‘recommended videos’ feature leading them to home videos of children. Pedophiles would also comment time stamps in such videos indicating sections of child nudity. While YouTube has already dealt with these specific problems, they felt the need to go further.
Claire Lilley, YouTube’s child safety policy manager, clarified to Wired:
We believe technology presents great opportunities for young people to express themselves creatively and access useful information, but we also know we have a responsibility to protect young creators and families and consider the potential impact of emerging trends on them.
We’ve been working with experts to update our enforcement guidelines for reviewers to remove ASMR videos featuring minors engaged in more intimate or inappropriate acts. We are working alongside experts to make sure we are protecting young creators while also allowing ASMR content that connects creators and viewers in positive ways.
Makenna’s mother has spoken out against this, saying: “I don’t need YouTube to parent my child or protect my child for me. They are not the government. Punish the pedophiles and punish the online cyberbullies — not the creator.”
What do you think YouTube can do to lessen problems of pedophilia on their platform?