What is It?

ElsaGate refers to the controversy surrounding YouTube Kids, an extension of YouTube directed towards children. The YouTube Kid app is marketed as being child-friendly and censored in accordance to YouTube community guidelines, but a number of videos have managed to slip past their censorship to reveal inappropriate materials. Materials include videos promoting drugs, violence, gore, nudity, and sexual activities [2] in the form of animation or live-action skits involving child television characters such as Elsa from Frozen, Spiderman, The Joker, Hulk, and Santa Claus [1].


How do they get away with it?

The content creators of videos that fall in the ElsaGate category use tags on their videos to abuse the YouTube algorithm that would otherwise target and remove inappropriate videos. By using a deceptively appropriate thumbnail and tagging and naming the videos normally, they avoid heavy moderation [7]. For example, keywords such as “education”, “family”, “song”, and “mickey mouse” suggest you will watch an educational song sung by Mickey Mouse but that might not be the case. In addition to this, deceptive tags make use of the auto-play and suggestion features of YouTube. The auto-play and suggestion features are widely used by young children that do not know how to search for their next video, so they either allow the video to play on automatically or they pick their next video from the suggestions section. The video you start off watching may be normal, but when auto-play plays the next video based off similar tags, you may end up watching something inappropriate.

Who’s behind this? What’s their motive?

There are thousands of different accounts posting this type of content. A lot of the accounts are in different languages [9] and post the same style of animation. The identities behind the channels are unknown to the public. The channels range in the number of subscribers and viewership, with a few of them reaching millions in both subscriptions and views. The motive behind the videos are also unknown though many suspect it has to do with money. Advertising revenue attracts YouTubers to continuously make videos in an attempt to garner as many views as possible. Kids are a target demographic for monetization purposes since they make up a large demographic [4]. The majority of the top videos viewed per month are videos directed toward children. If ElsaGate YouTubers make similar videos to those that are popular, then they can mooch off their viewership.
Aside from monetization, other motives could include the normalization of pedophilia through grooming. Normalization is a tactic used to desensitize individuals to inappropriate or dangerous behaviors through downplaying negative actions to bad behaviors until the victim cannot recognize it as abnormal [8]. It is known that human behavior is greatly influenced by role models [6] and plenty of children idolize superheroes and princesses. Social norms and ethics derived from these inappropriate videos could influence a child to mimic dangerous activities. Predators often target isolated, vulnerable, and impressionable children [7], much like those that watch a great number of. YouTube videos unsupervised.

What does YouTube do about it?

Since ElsaGate garnered media attention, YouTube has deleted 800,000 videos that violated their child safety rules, removed advertisements from 50,000 channels and 5 million videos, and disabled comments on videos that have attracted child predators [3]. In 2017, YouTube specifically banned videos that had children’s characters in inappropriate situations [5].


1. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v9EKV2nSU8w
2. https://www.reddit.com/r/ElsaGate/comments/6o6baf/what_is_elsagate/
3. https://www.buzzfeednews.com/article/blakemontgomery/youtube-has-deleted-hundreds-of-thousands-of-disturbing
4. https://www.wired.com/story/youtube-kid-troubles-kids-core-audience/
5. https://www.theverge.com/2017/12/8/16751206/elsagate-youtube-kids-creepy-conspiracy-theory
6. https://www.reference.com/science/factors-affect-human-behavior-3512986d01e403d4#
7. https://www.icmec.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/Behaviors-of-Sexual-Predators-Grooming.pdf
8. https://outofthefog.website/top-100-trait-blog/2015/11/4/normalizing
9. https://youtu.be/SmeNjZIdIkk

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