​Lidl, Cadbury maker Mondelez, Diageo and other big companies have pulled advertising from YouTube after the Times newspaper found the video sharing site was showing clips of scantily clad children alongside the ads of major brands. 

Comments from hundreds of pedophiles were posted alongside the images, which appeared to have been uploaded by the children themselves, according to a Times investigation. One video of a pre-teenage girl in a nightie drew 6.5 million views.

The paper said YouTube, a unit of Alphabet subsidiary Google, had allowed sexualized imagery of children to be easily searchable and not lived up to promises to better monitor and police its services to protect children.

In response, a YouTube spokesman said: "There shouldn't be any ads running on this content and we are working urgently to fix this".

German discount retailer Lidl, Diageo — the maker of Smirnoff vodka and Johnnie Walker whiskey — and Cadbury chocolate maker Mondelez confirmed they had pulled advertising campaigns from YouTube.

"We have suspended all of our YouTube advertising with immediate effect," the UK arm of Lidl said in a statement in response to the Times investigation.

"It is completely unacceptable that this content is available to view, and it is, therefore, clear that the strict policies which Google has assured us were in place to tackle offensive content are ineffective," a Lidl spokeswoman said.

Urgent investigation

Diageo said it was deeply concerned and had begun an urgent investigation. "We are enforcing an immediate stop of all YouTube advertising until we are confident the appropriate safeguards are in place," the company said.

The Times investigation alleged that YouTube does not pro-actively check for inappropriate images of children but instead relies on software algorithms, external non-government organisations and police forces to flag such content.

On Wednesday, YouTube announced a crackdown on sexualized or violent content aimed at "family friendly" sections of YouTube.
 
Johanna Wright, YouTube's vice president of product management, promised tougher application of its user guidelines, removing inappropriate ads targeting families, blocking inappropriate comments on videos featuring minors and providing further guidance for creators of family-friendly content.