YouTube is examining its auto-fill search features after reports that “disturbing” suggestions linked to child abuse appeared on the video site.
Users of the Google-owned site had reported that entering the words “how to have” into the site’s search box returned suggestions which included variations on the phrase “s*x with your kids”.
The incident comes days after YouTube was widely criticised for failing to prevent predatory comments and accounts from targeting children, which led to several big brands including Mars and Adidas pulling advertising from the site.
“Earlier today our teams were alerted to this profoundly disturbing autocomplete result and we worked to quickly remove it as soon as we were made aware,” a YouTube spokeswoman said.
“We are investigating this matter to determine what was behind the appearance of this autocompletion.”
There has been speculation the search terms – several of which use the asterisked word “s*x” – may have been deliberately aimed at embarrassing the site.
A report by BuzzFeed on the incident suggested that, because some of YouTube’s search algorithms are based on popularity, a co-ordinated effort by a group could have caused the searches to appear higher in results.
It also said using an asterisked word suggested that deliberate action had played a role in the incident.
None of the results linked to the “how to have” search showed videos of children being abused.
Following the comments scandal last week, the technology giant said: “We are committed to getting this right and recognise we need to do more.”
YouTube also recently announced new “toughened” guidelines on videos featuring children, which it says has already resulted in thousands of videos being removed from the site.