YouTube has shut down Toy Freaks, a channel run by a single father named Greg Chism. Chism regularly posted videos of his daughters Annabelle and Victoria bathing, impersonating babies, spitting up food, pretending to wet themselves, and being scared to the point of tears. Approximately 8.53 million subscribed to the channel, to witness what many people consider child abuse.
“Toy Freaks specializes in gross-out situations, as well as activities which many, many viewers feel border on abuse and exploitation, if not cross the line entirely, including videos of the children vomiting and in pain,” author James Bridle wrote in a Medium post on November 6th that brought to light the disturbing videos that plagued YouTube Kids. After the article, concerned YouTube users took to Twitter to complain about the disturbing content.
However, according to a statement provided to Variety, YouTube claims they only became aware of Toy Freaks because they recently adopted a more restrictive policy recently as a means of better sheriffing their platform. This was a measure taken to prevent the saturation of inappropriate videos on YouTube Kids.
“We recently tightened the enforcement of these policies to tackle content featuring minors where we receive signals that cause concern,” wrote an unnamed YouTube spokesperson. “It’s not always clear that the uploader of the content intends to break our rules, but we may still remove their videos to help protect viewers, uploaders, and children.”
Toy Freaks shutdown came as a direct result of the program, as he often posted videos of highly disturbing “skits”. Some of these included “bad baby” videos in which Chism’s daughters dressed in diapers and pretended to pee and vomit; others featured Chism scaring his bathing daughters to the point of tears by tossing lobsters or frogs into the tub.
Despite the fact that the upsetting videos of his two young daughters have been removed, along with all other videos Chism had on YouTube, parodies now exist of them. And since the channel was in circulation for several years, there’s no way to tell if other videos have been downloaded on individual computers prior to being taken down.
Chism himself acknowledges that his millions of viewers may not have had innocent intentions. In fact, he claims that’s why the channel was taken down. He told Variety that YouTube informed him of concerns that his “videos were attracting audience members who do not have children’s best interests in their hearts.”
Still, it’s unclear if Chism truly comprehends what was wrong with these videos (as if anyone has to chosen just one thing). He added that Victoria and Annabelle wanted to thank their supporters for helping them, “develop their creativity and self-confidence over the past few years.” And yet he has no idea what those supporters intentions are and did not question until YouTube intervened — let alone his own actions. Thank them for the money and clicks maybe, but don’t bring their self-confidence into it.
While the fact that YouTube’s stricter measures brought Toy Freaks to an end indicates that flagging inappropriate content works, the Internet is a breeding ground for this kind of content every day and much can fly under the radar. Measures need to be taken to ensure such content is taken down and doesn’t gain a following in the first place.