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Children are reportedly stumbling across the videos as they pop up as suggestions in apps like YouTube Kids. Some of them are extremely sexually explicit.

In March, the video site was met with advertiser pullouts when ads were found running on extremist content.

YouTube is taking steps to prevent disturbing videos from reaching children, after a wave of media reports showed how the platform was failing to keep inappropriate content away from youngsters.

"We have clear policies against videos and comments on YouTube which sexualise or exploit children and we enforce them aggressively whenever alerted to such content".

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. But some of the videos seemed less like pranks and more unsettling, like ones featuring the children pretending to act like infants, spitting baby food on one another and pretending to urinate on themselves.

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The presence of those infringing videos, which are aimed at kids, created to excel in YouTube's recommendation algorithm, and populated with popular family characters like Elsa and Spiderman, has triggered a controversy called ElsaGate.

Several major companies have pulled their advertising from YouTube after their ads were shown on videos of young children that had attracted scores of comments from pedophiles.

"In recent months, we've noticed a growing trend around content on YouTube that attempts to pass as family-friendly, but is clearly not", wrote Johanna Wright, YouTube's vice president of product management, in a blog post dated November 22.

"We're wholly committed to addressing these issues and will continue to invest the engineering and human resources needed to get it right", Wright concluded. "As a parent and as a leader in this organisation, I'm determined that we do". Those ads are removed immediately and the publishers blacklisted, it said.

"We are shocked and appalled to see that our adverts have appeared alongside such exploitative and inappropriate content", said Mars, the McLean, Va. -headquartered food maker said in a statement to USA TODAY. "Until we have confidence that appropriate safeguards are in place, we will not advertise on YouTube and Google". The firm has often shirked responsibility for this, in a manner similar to Facebook and Twitter, claiming that it can not police the content posted on their platforms. "We have suspended all of our YouTube advertising with immediate effect". With its public image and bottom line under fire, the firm no longer has the luxury of painlessly presenting itself as a faux neutral party in this debate.

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