Metro-East News

YouTube shuts down local man’s million-subscriber channel featuring daughters

Screen grab of Greg Chism from the Toy Freaks channel on YouTube.
Screen grab of Greg Chism from the Toy Freaks channel on YouTube.

A Granite City family’s YouTube channel is one of many channels the popular video platform has terminated for allegedly violating the site’s guidelines.

Greg Chism and his two daughters, Victoria and Annabelle, created Toy Freaks, which had 8.5 million subscribers before YouTube shut down the channel.

Three of Chism’s videos that he did not know were on the YouTube Kids application were flagged by users, which led to the Toy Freaks account being terminated, according to a statement from Chism via his spokesman, Aaron Perlut.

“I was in immediate contact with YouTube, and since then have been working with them,” Chism said in the statement. “Due to our large following of more than 8 million subscribers, there have been many requests for interviews and I appreciate the great interest in our story. We are grateful to all of those who have offered their support.”

The Toy Freaks videos showed two elementary school-age girls, Victoria and Annabelle, acting like babies, often with pacifiers and wearing onesies. James Brindle, who wrote a viral blog post for Medium regarding YouTube Kids, said Toy Freaks specializes in nursery rhymes and learning colors, as well as “gross-out situations, as well as activities which many, many viewers feel border on abuse and exploitation, if not cross the line entirely, including videos of the children vomiting and in pain.” Brindle’s blog post was quoted in a Variety article about YouTube’s takedown of the site.

Chism told Variety that YouTube informed him of concerns that his videos were attracting people who “did not have children’s best interests in their hearts.”

“Many YouTube community members expressed similar concerns, and their willingness to reach out to protect my children and all children from exploitation reinforces my faith in the YouTube community,” Chism told Variety. “Victoria, Annabelle and I want to thank our supporters as my girls have had the opportunity to develop their creativity and self-confidence over the past few years. Their future is bright. While it is disturbing to me that anyone would find inappropriate pleasure in our video skits, I deeply appreciate YouTube’s concerns for my family and I could not be happier with having had this remarkable experience.”

This news came just after YouTube promised to clean up the children’s section of its platform, called YouTube Kids, after several articles by The New York Times, The Guardian, Mashable, Variety and Medium called out the video giant for serving as host to inappropriate and sometimes violent videos where children could easily access them. YouTube updated its YouTube Kids application to further regulate videos and allow parents to flag those they consider inappropriate.

Brindle said many children’s videos on YouTube weave disturbing or violent content into videos that seem child-appropriate. Some videos show cartoon character Peppa Pig eating her father or drinking bleach, and others show the Peppa Pig characters with knives and guns.

YouTube issued a statement that it takes child safety seriously, and has policies against child endangerment.

“We recently tightened the enforcement of these policies to tackle content featuring minors where we receive signals that cause concern,” according to the statement. “It’s not always clear that the uploader of the content intends to break our rules, but we may still remove their videos to help protect viewers, uploaders and children. We’ve terminated the Toy Freaks channel for violation of our policies. We will be conducting a broader review of associated content in conjunction with expert trusted flaggers.”

All videos have been taken off the Troy Freaks account on YouTube, but some have been reposted on other channels. Chism owns “Freak Media LLC,” according to online records.