Could Youtube’s New Policy Bring Destruction?

Content creators on Youtube are facing a HUGE problem. And it’s not just another faulty feature of the website itself, it’s a matter of the law. The battle between Youtubers and the Federal Trade Commission and the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act has begun.

The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act was enacted on October 21, 1998. It is used to protect the online privacy of children 13 and under. It explains what a website operator must include in a privacy policy and what responsibilities an operator has to protect children’s privacy and online safety. While children under 13 can legally give out personal information with their parents’ permission, many sites bar them from using their services altogether to avoid the cost and consequences.

This brings us to Youtube’s new policy. In a record-setting deal with the Federal Trade Commission (The FTC) and the New York State Office of the Attorney General, Youtube paid $170 million to settle charges of violations from COPPA. As Youtube collects data from users to show them ads that would appeal to them, this also includes child-directed videos, and therefore, according to the FTC and COPPA, collects information on them without the parents’ consent and is, therefore, a violation. 

On January 1st, 2020, Youtube will ask content creators to label whether or not their videos are for kids are not.  If marked for kids the video will not play targeted ads, instead, they will play “contextualized ads”, relating to the subject matter in the video.  These videos and even channels will lose certain features, such as:

  • Notification bells
  • Comments
  • Being searchable on both Google and Youtube
  • Being in suggested/recommended

They will also make 90% less revenue from these videos, and this rule will also apply to older videos.

Is this bad? For content creators on Youtube, such as Pewdiepie, TheOdd1sOut, SomethingElseYT, DrawingwithJazza, Markiplier and many other content channels, yes. Their revenue will drop a large amount, as targeted ads pay them more than non-targeted ads. Moreso, the disabling of features and the disappearance of videos will prevent interaction and engagement with viewers, another huge blow for content creators.

What kind of content, you’re asking? Well, let’s take a look at COPPA’s Survey of Compliance, under Subject Matter Appealing to Children: “kids’ jokes, music, kids’ games, video/computer games, children’s tv shows or stars, cartoon characters, sports, stories, toys, children’s books, fantasy, children’s arts and crafts, pets, products primarily purchased or consumed by kids like snack food or cereal”.

This can also apply to the language used in the videos (popular slang like “cool” or “whatever”), visual content (bright, vibrant images), and audio content (children’s voices, music, sound effects).

The FTC’s own guidance adds even more vague criteria, stating that “the use of animated characters or child-oriented activities” is a major factor when determining whether the video content is aimed at children or not.

Obviously, the criteria and rules are incredibly vague and it has many grey areas. Even if the Youtuber marks their video or even their channel as not kid-friendly, COPPA and the FTC will do their own search and decide for themselves. Youtube has advised confused creators to contact their lawyers, as they could be fined $42,350 per mislabelled video. 

What is the basis of this? Content creators, both small and large, could suffer heavily from misguided and vague criteria from a government trying to protect children’s safety. While it is a very good idea to protect children and what they are exposed to, just simply labelling will not fix anything, and could destroy careers, and the website itself.

If you find this very upsetting and unfair, there are some things you can do. One action is to comment on the policy in the link below BEFORE THE END OF DECEMBER 9TH 2019 to let them know that not only are their rules and criteria vague and misguided, it can harm both Youtuber creators who make a living out of this, and Youtube in general. Not to mention, this new feature could be abused heavily and could not even work in the end.

https://www.regulations.gov/document?D=FTC-2019-0054-0001

There is also a Petition being signed by many people. The creator of the petition is hoping for 1,000,000.

https://www.change.org/p/the-federal-trade-commission-youtubers-and-viewers-unite-9045ee7f-f6f0-460e-b088-3429209dd7c6?recruiter=1015502725

In my opinion, and in many other people’s opinions, the rule either needs to be heavily altered and clarified (especially the criteria and guidelines) or abolished altogether. 

If you are a big fan of a content creator on Youtube, or even an up-and-coming Youtuber yourself, spreading this information is extra important to assure this won’t come to pass.