A video channel slammed as "exploitive" and "abusive" has been removed by YouTube, as the international video streaming site continues to crack down on disturbing and often sexualised videos targeted at children.
Toy Freaks, a channel featuring US dad Greg Chism and his two young daughters, who Newshub has chosen not to name, had more than 8.5 million subscribers before it was finally removed last week. Social media users and the YouTube community had been expressing growing concern over the exploitative nature of the channel.
The videos created by Chism included his girls acting like babies; spitting up food, wetting themselves and bathing, as well as often screaming with fear as he scared them on purpose.
An investigation by Buzzfeed News highlighted a particular clip, in which one of Chism's daughter urinates on her sister, with the camera zooming in on the wet patch left on her bottom. In another, the girls are screaming and crying as Chism threatens them with putting a dirty frog into the bath while they're bathing.
"No, Daddy, stop!" one of the girls screams, crying and trying to get out of the bath.
'Toy Freaks' highest-viewed video was 'Bad Baby Real Food Fight [girls] & Freak Daddy Toy Freaks Family,' which had 622 million cumulative views.
Buzzfeed reports that in a statement, a YouTube spokesperon said they "take child safety extremely seriously and have clear policies against child endangerment".
"We recently tightened the enforcement of these policies to tackle content featuring minors where we receive signals that cause concern... We've terminated the Toy Freaks channel for violation of our policies. We will be conducting a broader review of associated content in conjunction with expert Trusted Flaggers."
Earlier this year, the hashtag 'ElsaGate' drew attention to similar disturbing YouTube content aimed at children. According to a Reddit Thread, ElsaGate is the YouTube phenomenon of reoccurring inappropriate themes and topics in videos featuring Spiderman, Moana, Frozen's Elsa, Mickey Mouse and other children's characters. Some of the content includes characters removing another's clothing, holding guns or engaging in sexual behaviours involving urination and defecation.
In an essay entitled 'Something is Wrong with the Internet' on Medium, writer and artist James Bridle wrote that people were using YouTube to "systematically frighten, traumatise, and abuse children".
"It forces me to question my own beliefs about the internet, at every level," he wrote.
Bridle highlighted videos such as "Peppa Pig Crying at the Dentist Doctor Pull Teeth!" a video in which the children's TV character "is basically tortured, before turning into a series of Iron Man robots and performing the Learn Colours dance". He also wrote about Chism's Toy Freaks channel, saying it specialised "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".
Chism provided a statement to various media outlets, saying he's working with YouTube to rectify the situation.
"Due to our large following of more than 8 million subscribers, there have been many requests for interviews and I appreciate the great interest in our story. We are grateful to all of those who have offered their support."