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"I Searched for a Religious Song in Amharic and Got Sexual Content Instead": Investigating Online Harm in Low-Resourced Languages on YouTube

Hellina Hailu Nigatu, Inioluwa Deborah Raji

Online social media platforms such as YouTube have a wide, global reach. However, little is known about the experience of low-resourced language speakers on such platforms; especially in how they experience and navigate harmful content. To better understand this, we (1) conducted semi-structured interviews (n=15) and (2) analyzed search results (n=9313), recommendations (n=3336), channels (n=120) and comments (n=406) of policy-violating sexual content on YouTube focusing on the Amharic language. Our findings reveal that -- although Amharic-speaking YouTube users find the platform crucial for several aspects of their lives -- participants reported unplanned exposure to policy-violating sexual content when searching for benign, popular queries. Furthermore, malicious content creators seem to exploit under-performing language technologies and content moderation to further target vulnerable groups of speakers, including migrant domestic workers, diaspora, and local Ethiopians. Overall, our study sheds light on how failures in low-resourced language technology may lead to exposure to harmful content and suggests implications for stakeholders in minimizing harm. Content Warning: This paper includes discussions of NSFW topics and harmful content (hate, abuse, sexual harassment, self-harm, misinformation). The authors do not support the creation or distribution of harmful content.

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