Impact of the FTC Violation Fine for YouTube and Advertising

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  • 10/15/2019

    Do you have kids or know a child between the ages of three and 10? Well, chances are you have heard of the insanely popular YouTube channels Ryan ToyReview or Cocomelon – Nursery Rhymes. Channels like these have tens of millions of subscribers and even more monthly views. What is different about these channels versus the likes of PewdiePie and the Paul Brothers is that these channels are specifically targeted to preschool and elementary school-aged children in the content that they produce. 


    Channels like these produce sponsored content and run ads, all geared at children under the age of 13. Advertising to children this way is a clear violation of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. COPPA regulates the collection of information about children under 13. To learn more about COPPA check out a previous thunder::tech blog about COPPA and internet safety for kids! 

    In a historic ruling on September 4, 2019, the Federal Trade Commission fined YouTube $170 million for its violations of children’s privacy. The FTC’s complaint alleges that “YouTube did not properly notify parents and get their consent before collecting and using their children’s personal information. Specifically, YouTube collected “persistent identifiers” such as cookies that are used to track viewers over time and across websites for advertising to children. In addition to paying the fine, of which $34 million will go to the state of New York and $136 million will go to the US Treasury for the COPPA penalty, YouTube must create a process for users to identify kid-centric content that will no longer be used for advertising purposes. 

    Upcoming Changes to Kids Content on YouTube

    So what does this fine mean to viewers and content creators? 

    1. YouTube will treat anyone who watches content geared for kids as a user under the age of 13 regardless of their actual age 
    2. Creators will be required to notify YouTube if their content is geared towards children and YouTube will also use machine learning to identify videos geared towards kids as well
      • There will be consequences for creators who fail to identify or incorrectly categorize their content 
    3. YouTube will stop serving ads on content aimed at kids
    4. Some YouTube features like comments and likes will not be enabled on kids content

    What Brands Need to Know

    So now that kids are better protected (some say these new standards still aren’t enough), what does that mean for brands that have built a kids following on YouTube? Changes need to happen. With the ruling, YouTube understands that there will be a significant impact on many brands so the platform gave creators have four months from the ruling date to adjust their tactics before changes are to take effect on YouTube. 

    Now is the time to take a critical look at your content inventory and review who the desired and current audience is for each piece. Then, if you don’t already, it’s time to create your own COPPA-approved content checklist for new content production compliance. Lastly, keep an eye on the sky, or at least the legislation horizon for changes required of your favorite marketing mediums. 

    Contact thunder::tech today to learn how we can assist your brand with the upcoming required YouTube changes!
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