YouTube is currently conducting an investigation after it came to light that some autofill searches retrieved disturbing child sex suggestions.
More specifically, users reported that upon typing simple phrases into the search bar such as "how to have," YouTube would retrieve suggestions such as "how to have s*x in school" or "how to have s*x with your kids." Other searches also yielded similar "s*x" suggestions.
Following such disturbing reports, YouTube has changed the way autofill works and has launched an investigation into the matter. One theory that is making rounds is someone is trying to troll YouTube by messing with the autofill search suggestions.
"Earlier today our teams were alerted to this awful autocomplete result and we worked to quickly remove it," YouTube told BuzzFeed News on Monday, Nov. 27. "We are investigating this matter to determine what was behind the appearance of this autocompletion."
Is Someone Messing With YouTube Autofill Suggestions?
First off, it's very odd that the autofill suggestions list the word "s*x," with an asterisk rather than with all letters. This asterisk prominent in all of the inappropriate suggestions indicates that it might have been a deliberate campaign to troll the autofill algorithm. Regular users would just type out the word "sex" when searching for something, but trolls could have conducted "s*x" searches frequently enough to make the search more popular and trigger an autofill suggestion.
It's worth pointing out, however, that none of the videos featured for the disturbing search suggestions linked to actual videos of child abuse, pedophilia or other such. This could further back the theory that it was a consistent trolling campaign to mess with the autofill search algorithm.
Some Inappropriate YouTube Search Suggestions Still Linger
YouTube seems to have removed most inappropriate autofill suggestions, but not all. Searching for "how to have" in an incognito browser window, which doesn't take into account any personal preferences or browsing history, the fourth suggestion is still "how to have s*x in school." Conducting the same "how to have" search in a regular browser window (non-incognito), while logged in, retrieves no inappropriate suggestions.
No additional details are available at this point, but YouTube is expected to provide more information once it gets to the bottom of this autofill issue and concludes its investigation. For the time being, it remains unclear just what triggered these "s*x" search suggestions and whether it's a bug or a deliberate attempt to discredit YouTube, but the second variant seems likely.