YouTube Makes Big Changes to Kids’ Content

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The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has gotten very serious about protecting the privacy of children’s data on YouTube.  To that end, they hit Google with a $172 million penalty for violations to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).  In addition to the fine, the FTC is implementing new, more restrictive rules for conduct on YouTube, primarily related to content on the video site.  Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, acknowledged their responsibility in monitoring content and said, "Nothing is more important than protecting kids and their privacy.” 

YouTube will now have more stringent guidelines concerning both content and content creators.  They will address these privacy concerns in part by making changes to their data collection practices.  Because there is no effective mechanism to determine the age of viewers of specific content, all children’s content on YouTube will be handled as if the viewers are children.  This means that data collection and some forms of interaction will be strictly limited.  Wojcicki described it this way:  “(content) creators will be required to tell us when their content falls in this category, and we’ll also use machine learning to find videos that clearly target young audiences, for example those that have an emphasis on kids characters, themes, toys or games.”  Advertisers and content creators will have restrictions on such interactions as personalized ads, comments, and notifications.

It is hoped that these changes will keep kids safe, and address the concerns of their parents, who should now feel safer in allowing their kids access to YouTube.  There will also be improvements to the YouTube app, which will be introduced through an information campaign addressed to parents.  As these changes are implemented, YouTube will also make YouTube Kids available on desktop.  This should increase family viewing, and allow parents to act as gatekeepers for the content their young children are accessing.

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YouTube will also work with content creators to provide new, kid-friendly content.  The FTC has imposed a four-month timeline to make these changes, and that should also give content creators an opportunity to explore and implement the new programming.  To that end, YouTube has dedicated a $100 million fund over the next three years toward the creation of “thoughtful, original children’s content on YouTube and YouTube Kids globally.”

All of these changes should provide a fertile field for the creation of new programming that will satisfy both kids and parents.  While the content creators have legitimate concerns about the impact the changes will have on their profits, everyone agrees that children’s safety must be the number one priority.