Technology

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4Chan Users Defy YouTube Security With “Porn Day” Prank

May 22, 2009 06:00 PM
by Liz Colville
Hundreds of pornographic videos were uploaded to YouTube earlier this week disguised as harmless videos for children and teens.

Videos Disguised as Children’s Shows, Music Videos

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Many of the videos began innocently enough with footage of children’s shows until “groups of adults performing graphic sex acts appeared on screen,” the BBC reported.

As Ars Technica explained further, the clips were "uploaded without any indication that they're for adult eyes only, making them easy to happen upon by casual searchers.”

Indeed, comments on some of the videos indicate that pre-teen users watched the videos and were taken aback by what they saw. On a video that was disguised as a live Jonas Brothers performance, one user commented, “I’m 12 years old and what is this?” according to the BBC.

Google, which owns YouTube, told the BBC it is “aware and addressing the problem.”

Key Player: 4Chan

A 21-year-old man from Germany involved in the prank said it was part of a “4Chan raid” in protest of YouTube’s stringent removal of music videos that are in violation of copyright, referring to the popular online forum also known as an image board. The May 20 raid was dubbed “Porn Day” by users of 4Chan.

On 4Chan, users post images and messages in categories that include manga, travel and “random.” Fox News’ Taryn Sauthoff recently called the site a “surreptitious cultural powerhouse” responsible for the proliferation of such online trends as “lolcat” and the YouTube singing sensation Tay Zonday.

Sauthoff also called its members “a bunch of antisocial, foul-mouthed, clever nerds.” Time magazine, meanwhile, conducted a poll that named its founder, 21-year-old Christopher Poole, the World’s Most Influential Person of 2009. The Week reports that 4Chan’s users actually “hacked the Time 100 poll to put its founder at the top of the list.”

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Opinion & Analysis: Rating YouTube's response

CNET talked with Google spokesperson Scott Rubin, who explained that beyond the disabling of the actual videos, “certain channels where the posters were bragging about the campaign and listing the videos were being disabled.” He said, “I think our systems are doing really well at removing content that violates the guidelines.”

“The pranksters proved that YouTube was vulnerable to abuse,” Technologizer’s David Worthington points out, “but [YouTube’s] mechanisms for removing undesirable content worked effectively enough.”

But Ars Technica disagrees, suggesting that YouTube’s system isn’t strong enough. On “Porn Day,” Ars Technica observed that “we are still able to find porn videos posted a few hours ago. Even those that are found and removed leave porn residue, since the XXX-rated videos are still showing up in searches and their explicit thumbnails remain in plain view for anyone to see.”

To this, Google’s Rubin responded, “It may take some time for video search results and thumbnail images to disappear from the site.”

Reference: Web Guide to Understanding YouTube

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