Internet video giant YouTube implemented new policies on Monday surrounding advertising and data collection in children’s content. “Starting today, we will no longer serve personalized ads or support features such as comments, Stories, live chat, notification bell, and others on videos designated made for kids,” the company said in a press email.
YouTube first announced these policy changes last September shortly after settling with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) over allegations that the company had illegally collected personal information from users age 13 and under.
Responding to Controversy
Last year, the FTC investigated claims that YouTube had violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The 1998 law prohibits the collection of personal data from internet users age 13 and under.
YouTube admitted no wrongdoing, maintaining that the site is meant for people over the age of 13. However, critics pointed out the lack of a way to enforce the age limit, as well as the large amount of popular children’s content hosted by the site.
The FTC ultimately fined YouTube $170 million, finding the company had taken in $50 million from a shortlist of channels violating COPPA, suggesting more channels and a higher net profit, per The Washington Post.
In the wake of the settlement, YouTube notified content creators of coming changes to the way the site would regulate children’s content. For one, creators would be responsible for classifying their videos as being explicitly aimed at children. Videos marked as such would then be unable to run personalized ad content.
The Right Solution?
Alongside the policy changes, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki also announced the founding of a $100 million fund intended for the creation of “thoughtful, original children’s content.”
However, many content creators are uneasy about the changes. One fear is that they could endanger channels that attract young viewers but aren’t specifically aimed at children.
“Creators are being held directly responsible by the FTC,” said YouTube toy reviewer Dan Eardley, a.k.a Pixel Dan, to The Verge. “So if the FTC decides that [we] are indeed targeting children, we’ll be fined. That is frightening. It’s especially scary because the verbiage of ‘kid directed’ vs ‘kid attractive’ isn’t very clear.”
There’s also concern the lack of push notifications for children’s videos will stem traffic. Some creators believe this will make it harder for channels to gain followers and continue operating.
“A lot of creators are telling me they may quit if it’s as bad as they fear,” Yoola Management Company CEO Eyal Baumel told The Washington Post. “There’s just a lot of confusion about how this will play out, particularly among the smallest channels.”
Children’s songwriter Parry Gripp worried the rules could push kids’ content off YouTube completely, leaving kids only with less appropriate options. Gripp told The Washington Post, “If you discourage kids’ creators, there will just be non-kids content.”