Creators of child-directed content will be financially impacted by the changes required by the FTC settlement, YouTube admitted today. The settlement will end the use of children’s personal data for ad-targeting purposes, the FTC said. To address creators’ concerns over their businesses, YouTube also announced a $100 million fund to invest in original children’s content.
The fund, distributed over three years, will be dedicated to the creation of “thoughtful” original content for YouTube and YouTube Kids globally, the company says.
“We know these changes will have a significant business impact on family and kids creators who have been building both wonderful content and thriving businesses, so we’ve worked to give impacted creators four months to adjust before changes take effect on YouTube,” wrote YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki in a blog post. “We recognize this won’t be easy for some creators and are committed to working with them through this transition and providing resources to help them better understand these changes.”
YouTube plans to share more information about the fund and its plans in the weeks ahead.
In addition, YouTube said today it’s “rethinking” its overall approach to the YouTube kids and family experience.
This could go toward fixing some of the other problems raised by the consumer advocacy groups who prompted the FTC investigation. The groups weren’t entirely pleased by the settlement, as they believed it was only scratching the surface of YouTube’s issue.
“It’s extremely disappointing that the FTC isn’t requiring more substantive changes or doing more to hold Google accountable for harming children through years of illegal data collection,” said Josh Golin, the executive director for the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC), a group that spearheaded the push for an investigation. “A plethora of parental concerns about YouTube – from inappropriate content and recommendations to excessive screen time – can all be traced to Google’s business model of using data to maximize watch time and ad revenue,” he added.
Google already began to crack down on some of these concerns, independent of an FTC requirement, however.
To tackle the scourge of inappropriate content targeting minors, YouTube in August expanded its child safety policies to remove — instead of only restrict, as it did before — any “misleading family content, including videos that target younger minors and their families, those that contain sexual themes, violence, obscene, or other mature themes not suitable for younger audiences.”
Separately, YouTube aims to address the issues raised around promotional content in videos.
For example, a video with kids playing with toys could be an innocent home movie or it could involve a business agreement between the video creator and a brand to showcase the products in exchange for free merchandise or direct payment.
The latter should be labeled as advertising, as required by YouTube, but that’s often not the case. And even when ads are disclosed, it’s impossible for young children to know the difference between when they’re being entertained and when they’re being marketed to.
There are also increasing concerns over the lack of child labor laws when it comes to children performing in YouTube videos, which has prompted some parents to exploit their kids for views or even commit child abuse.
YouTube’s “rethinking” of its kids’ experience should also include whether or not it should continue to incentivize the creation of these “kid influencer” and YouTube family videos, where little girls’ and boys’ childhoods have become the source of parents’ incomes.
YouTube’s re-evaluation of the kids’ experience comes at a time when the FTC is also thinking of how to better police general audience platforms on the web, where some content is viewed by kids. The regulator is hosting an October workshop to discuss this issue, where it hopes to come up with ways to encourage others to develop kid-safe zones, too.