New Guidelines Worry Youtube Content Creators


Photo courtesy of ABC News

It was announced this week that Youtube will be implementing new rules towards kids content, after issues with the US. Federal Trade Commissions (FTC) over not enforcing COPPA guidelines.

The development of new guidelines began on September 4th of this year, when Google and Youtube had to pay 170 million dollars to settle allegations with FTC. Back in 1998, the government passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) to protect the privacy of children under the age of 13 on the internet by making it illegal to collect data of their online usage. This posed a problem for Youtube, as it takes data from your account and viewing history to send out personalized ads. Personalized ads are more expensive to run, as companies know that their ads are going to the right audience. 

With a large amount of content on Youtube being directly targeted at children, the FTC began to take notice of Youtube’s data collection. Initially, Youtube took measures to prevent the taking of data from children, like adding Youtube Kids, a version of the site with kid-friendly content. Additionally, Youtube Kids doesn’t take data and requires users to be at least 13 years old to make an account. Yet these changes didn’t make a difference in the FTC’s eyes as children can just as easily lie about their age or go on a parent’s account and visit the main website to watch content. 

Not only did the company lose a large sum of money due to the FTC’s fine, but Youtube has been told to make changes to their website. Starting in 2020, Youtube will not place personalized ads on content that is believed to be directed towards children. To accomplish this, they will use machine learning to determine what videos are made for kids and which are targeting adults. However, this a vague statement that can be applied to most videos on the site, which may prove to be problematic as the “machine” is also looking for child-appealing content along with content directed towards children. 

According to the FTC, “A website that is primarily directed to children should have AT LEAST TWO of the following three factors present: Subject Matter, Presentation, and Interactivity.” Subject matter ranges from video/computer games, sports, stories, pets, fantasy, children’s TV shows or stars, and snack food. This is a problem for channels that focus on these topics while not being directly made for children, as they will be flagged. Presentation is mostly discussing the use of bright or vibrant colors, animations, host characters, age of creator, popular songs/tunes, or language that appeals to children, like saying the words “cool” or “whatever.” Again, this criteria poses a big problem for channels that are focused on animations. Lastly, interactivity is having a video containing “interactive child-oriented activities,” like artwork, contests, games, clubs, or polls. All of these examples come straight from the FTC and apply to a majority of Youtube channels. 

The reason why this is a problem is that content that is labeled as “made for children” will no longer have personalized ads on that particular video, now placing advertisements that fit the video itself. This makes the value of a view on a video decrease, affecting the revenue earned by these creators. Content on flagged videos will be circulated to outside audiences less, causing the views on videos to decrease. 

Nothing is currently set in stone as the FTC will continue to receive comments on the issue until December 9th, with final guidelines to be set by 2020. Regardless of the guidelines, the changes that are soon to come will alter the face of Youtube as it enters a new decade.