YouTube creators may also be held liable for COPPA violations, following FTC settlement – gpgmail

The FTC is imposing a historic fine of $170 million for YouTube’s violation of the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The settlement agreement will put increased responsibility on both YouTube and the content creators themselves to properly identify any child-directed content on the platform, as YouTube is now prohibited from collecting personal data from viewers of any of those videos. Creators who fail to comply with this new requirement may be penalized directly, the FTC revealed at a press conference this morning. This could include both civil penalties and their removal from the YouTube platform.

These specific consequences weren’t detailed in either the FTC or YouTube’s earlier statements about the settlement agreement, and serve to put the creator community on notice.

“We would have strong penalties in future cases against content creators and channel owners, as well — particularly when we would have a situation where the channel owner was specifically asked ‘are you child-directed?,’  and the channel owner said ‘No,” said Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection Andrew Smith.

The ability to target children’s videos using behavioral advertising technology has been a profitable business for creators, so changes that require creators to dial things back could have encouraged some to try to skirt the new rules.

That was a concern, the FTC said, which is why it will continue to review YouTube content.

The regulator says when the order is fully implemented, it will perform a sweep of YouTube to identify any child-directed content that continues to collect personally identifiable information. It wouldn’t say how this sweep would work, on a technical level, or how it will be able to keep up with the huge influx of new content YouTube sees every day.

The FTC also promised other “consequences” for content creators who are not sincere or forthcoming about their content, which could include “being kicked off the YouTube platform,” it said.

YouTube isn’t likely to let it come to that, however.

“We also think that YouTube has a strong incentive to police its platform both to avoid future enforcement actions by the FTC, but also because it’s offering this platform to content creators,” Smith said. “And if the FTC is bringing independent piecemeal actions against content creators, for violating COPPA, that may discourage content creators from posting content on YouTube,” he added.

YouTube, itself, did not specify what sort of enforcement it would take itself against non-compliant creators, only that further information would be shared with the community ahead of the start of these new data practices — in about four months’ time.

At that point, YouTube says it will limit data collection on child-directed content and stop serving personalized ads on the videos. It will also turn off comments and notifications on these children’s videos. YouTube creators, meanwhile, will have a new checkbox where they’ll need to inform YouTube if their content is aimed at children in order to meet the new guidelines.

YouTube, additionally, plans to use machine learning techniques to identify other child-directed content — like videos featuring kids’ characters, toys and games, for example. It will then automatically bucket those items as also being children’s content and will limit the data collection taking place on those videos, too.

To be in violation of COPPA, the creator would have to leave this checkbox unchecked and avoid getting flagged through YouTube’s automated systems. (Or return to their videos to disable the designation at some point, perhaps.)

YouTube will have more to share in the coming weeks about the impacts to creators, the changes they’ll need to make and its plans for a new $100 million fund for kid-friendly YouTube content.

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Ahead of FTC ruling, YouTube Kids is getting a website – gpgmail

Ahead of the official announcement of an FTC settlement which could force YouTube to direct under-13-year-old users to a separate experience for YouTube’s kid-friendly content, the company has quietly announced plans to launch its YouTube Kids service on the web. Previously, parents would have to download the YouTube Kids app to a mobile device in order to access the filtered version of YouTube.

By bringing YouTube Kids to the web, the company is prepared for the likely outcome of an FTC settlement which would require the company to implement an age-gate on its site, then redirect under-13-year-olds to a separate kid-friendly experience.

In addition, YouTube Kids is gaining a new filter which will allow parents to set the content to being preschooler-appropriate.

The announcement, published to the YouTube Help forums, was first spotted by Android Police.

It’s unclear if YouTube was intentionally trying to keep these changes from being picked up on by a larger audience (or the press) by publishing the news to a forum instead of its official YouTube blog. (The company tells us it publishes a lot of news the forum site. Sure, okay. But with an FTC settlement looming, it seems an odd destination for such an announcement.)

It’s also worth noting that, around the same time as the news was published, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki posted her quarterly update for YouTube creators. The update is intended to keep creators abreast of what’s in store for YouTube and its community. But this quarter, her missive spoke solely about the value in being an open platform, and didn’t touch on anything related to kids content or the U.S. regulator’s investigation.

However, it’s precisely YouTube’s position on “openness” that concerns parents when it comes to their kids watching YouTube videos. The platform’s (almost) “anything goes” nature means kids can easily stumble upon content that’s too adult, controversial, hateful, fringe, or offensive.

The YouTube Kids app is meant to offer a safer destination, but YouTube isn’t manually reviewing each video that finds its way there. That has led to inappropriate and disturbing content slipping through the cracks on numerous occasions, and eroding parents’ trust.

Because many parents don’t believe YouTube Kids’ algorithms can filter content appropriately, the company last fall introduced the ability for parents to whitelist specific videos or channels in the Kids app. It also rolled out a feature that customized the app’s content for YouTube’s older users, ages 8 through 12. This added gaming content and music videos.

Now, YouTube is further breaking up the “Younger” content level filter, which was previously 8 and under, into two parts. Starting now, “Younger” applies to ages 5 through 7, while the new “Preschool” filter is for the age 4 and under group. The latter will focus on videos that promote “creativity, playfulness, learning, and exploration,” says YouTube.

YouTube confirmed to gpgmail that its forum announcement is accurate, but the company would not say when the YouTube Kids web version would go live, beyond “this week.”

The YouTube Kids changes are notable because they signal that YouTube is getting things in place before an FTC settlement announcement that will impact how it handles kids content and the site’s continued use by young children.

It’s possible that YouTube will be fined by the FTC for its violations of COPPA, as (TikTok) was earlier this year. One report, citing unnamed sources, says the FTC’s YouTube settlement has been finalized and includes a multimillion-dollar fine.

YouTube will also likely be required to implement an age-gate on its site and in its apps that will direct under-13-year-olds to the YouTube Kids platform instead of YouTube proper. The settlement may additionally require YouTube to stop targeting ads on videos aimed at children, as has been reported by Bloomberg. 

We probably won’t see the FTC issuing a statement about its ruling ahead of this Labor Day weekend, but it may do so in advance of its October workshop focused on refining the COPPA regulation — an event that has the regulator looking for feedback on how to properly handle sites like YouTube. 



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