YouTube has come under fire for hosting videos which trick children into thinking they are watching popular cartoons – before showing them explicit content.
The video hosting website has previously been criticised by the UK Government, along with other web giants such as Google, for hosting adverts on pages which host extremist videos and posts.
One such video shows a likeness of the popular cartoon character Peppa Pig – but it’s clear something is off.
The piglet is seen going to the dentist and having a horrific operation performed on its teeth.
This causes the pig to sob, and shows scenes which could distress children who are fond of the beloved cartoon animal.
The video is advertised on the description as ‘for kids’.
Some videos show an unauthorised copy of the pig – who is wildly popular among very young children – brutally dying.
There are hundreds of similar videos which show violent or sexual content with characters made to look like Elsa from Disney movie Frozen, Minions from the Minions franchise, Doc McStuffins, Thomas the Tank Engine and more.
Many of these videos have thousands of views, and feature advertising from companies which pay YouTube to play their commercials before videos.
They have also made unauthorised copies of authentic cartoons.
Parent and journalist Laura June told the BBC that she was concerned after her three-year-old daughter started watching one of the cartoons.
“Peppa does a lot of screaming and crying and the dentist is just a bit sadistic and it’s just way, way off what a three-year-old should watch,” she said.
“But the animation is like close enough to looking like Peppa – it’s crude but it’s close enough that my daughter was like ‘This is Peppa Pig.'”
A YouTube spokesperson commented: “We work to make the videos in YouTube Kids as family-friendly as possible and take feedback very seriously. We appreciate people drawing problematic content to our attention, and make it easy for anyone to flag a video. Flagged videos are manually reviewed 24/7 and any videos that don’t belong in the app are removed within hours. For parents who want a more restricted experience, we recommend that they turn off the Search feature in the app.”