I’ve been a fan of Kris Straub’s surreal and unsettling horror project, Local 58, for a number of years. Although only totaling nine entries over the past four years, Straub’s ingenious analog-styled videos disguised as late night public access channel programs are sneakily creepy, and sometimes even convincing to the point of going viral many times over. What’s especially clever about Local 58 is its entirely bloodless content — not that that’s what makes it any less inappropriate for actual children.
Speaking of which, take Straub’s “Show For Children,” for example. It doesn’t take very long for the black-and-white animated cartoon to go off the rails in a way that would give the young’uns serious nightmares. And yet, YouTube’s algorithm gods apparently have taken “Show For Children” at face value. As Straub recently pointed out via Twitter, the site has his show classified as “Made for kids,” and unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much he can do about it.
Less than appealing — Thankfully, it’s usually easy enough to hamper the youths of today from coming across “Show For Children,” along with similarly age inappropriate content: Creators can theoretically restrict their uploads via YouTube ratings. I say “theoretically,” because apparently that isn’t the immediate case for Straub. “Congrats @youtube on the decision to auto-designate @LOCAL58TV’s ‘show for children’ as FOR KIDS despite my having set it as inappropriate for kids,” he tweeted on July 4th, going on to note that he “also can’t change it voluntarily without an *appeal*.”
The reason seems to be an ironic, unintentional Catch-22 situation instituted by YouTube. If a video is auto-designated as “Made for kids,” then a creator apparently can’t subsequently alter or age-restrict their upload “because this video is set up as made for kids.”
“Okay, so what?” you may ask yourself. Kids come across horrific content online every damn day, after all. Well, aside from having a conscience (as Straub clearly does), there could be larger unintentional ramifications for the creator. “How long before YouTube says ‘hey you skirted the content rating!!’ and bans the channel entirely,” he posited after bringing the issue to light.
Unfortunately, it’s an entirely possible outcome, giving YouTube often arbitrary and uneven content moderation. We’ve reached out to both Straub and YouTube for comment on the situation, and will update accordingly. In the meantime, I’m gonna go rewatch some Local 58 favorites of mine...