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The FTC Came For YouTube: Who’s Next?

The FTC Came For YouTube: Who’s Next?
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The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is the reason you see those “are you at least 13 years of age?” pop-ups on sites. If you’ve ever wondered why this agreement matters so much, it’s because the US federal government ruled in 1998 that it was unlawful for online services to collect information on people any younger than 13. As the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) puts it, “COPPA imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age.” As you can guess, websites take this rule very seriously; with Twitter even removing accounts if they found out you lied. Account age doesn’t matter to them; if the user was under 13 years of age at the time of creation, they’ll remove the account. YouTube learned this lesson the hard way; about 170 million dollars hard.

YouTube had to pay out $136 million to the FTC, and another $34 million to New York, for allegedly violating this rule. The cause of this massively expensive settlement was that YouTube allegedly was making millions off of targeted ads from viewers of content directed at children. This was in September 2019, and now YouTube is making some changes to make sure it never happens again. YouTube’s attempt at becoming more family-friendly has backfired on them a great deal and has now forced them to work quickly at correcting the hiccup. 

YouTube has been working hard behind the scenes and recently announced to its content creators some new content management systems. They will now be requesting content creators to list their uploads or their whole channel, as child audience targeted or general. Content creators were pretty on board with this, until a second announcement created two worrying issues. These child-friendly channels and videos will not generate any ad revenue; they’ll just be videos for kids, and nothing more. This has some worried as ad revenue is the number one money maker for YouTube content creators, which means no money and less ability to make videos. This causes the worry for the second issue; YouTube is setting out to automate determining if a video was placed in the correct grouping or not. With its creators already being restricted to keeping their content family-friendly, they worry that these new guidelines could result in channels accidentally being flagged as child-focused channels; regardless of whether or not the content was intended for children. Some Youtubers have already started placing messages at the beginning of their videos, much like television stations do, stating that the following video is not intended for children. 

Not Intended For Children Message
Example of a video from Zee Bashew with a Not Intended For Children Message

YouTube’s own CaptainSparklez, a.k.a. Jordan Maron, put together a wonderful 20-minute rant on what this all means, the info himself and other creators are trying to figure out, and even puts on a tinfoil hat with why he thinks this all went down. Maron is mainly worried about what is going to happen to channels like his, where the content is normally child-friendly but intended for users 13 years of age or older. 

Moran speaks for many YouTubers; if YouTube decides to put the power in the hands of the creators, who will the FTC charge next? For more gaming and tech news, and updates on the downfall of YouTube; make sure to keep it locked to Mammoth Gamers! Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for all things video games!

When Jonathan isn't playing video games or cooking, he is writing poetry and computer code. He enjoys PC gaming, but won't let go of his roots in handheld and console gaming. If it isn't his PlayStation 4 or Vita, then it is his Nintendo 3DS or GameBoy Advance. He also enjoys a good Billy Collins poem, while enjoying some homemade caramel.