YouTube channel owners: Is your content directed to children?

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Under COPPA, how do I know if my channel is “directed to children”? Since the FTC and New York Attorney General announced their September 2019 settlement with YouTube for violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule, we’ve heard that question from channel owners – sometimes called content creators. If you’re a channel owner who shares content on user-generated platforms like YouTube, read on for FTC staff guidance about the applicability of the COPPA Rule and how those covered by the Rule can comply with its requirements.

The FTC action against YouTube and Google

The lawsuit against YouTube and Google alleged that the companies illegally collected personal information from children, in violation of COPPA. According to the complaint, the companies collected that information from viewers of child-directed YouTube channels in the form of persistent identifiers that track users across the Internet, but didn’t notify parents and get their consent. To settle the case, YouTube and Google agreed to create a mechanism so that channel owners can designate when the videos they upload to YouTube are – to use the words of COPPA – “directed to children.” The purpose of this requirement is to make sure that both YouTube and channel owners are complying with the law.

A COPPA recap

That provision of the settlement has raised questions among content creators about how to determine if what they upload to YouTube or other platforms is “directed to children.” The answer requires a brief summary of some key COPPA provisions. Passed by Congress in 1998, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act is a federal law that protects the privacy of children under 13. COPPA’s foundational principle is one that most people can agree on: Parents – not kids, companies, platforms, or content creators – should be in control when it comes to information collected from children online.

The FTC enforces the law through the COPPA Rule. In general, COPPA requires operators of commercial websites and online services that are directed to children (more about that in a minute) to provide notice and obtain verifiable parental consent before they collect personal information from kids under 13.

The COPPA Rule defines “personal information” to include obvious things like a child’s first and last name or home address, but that’s not all. Under COPPA, personal information also covers what are called persistent identifiers – behind-the-scenes code that recognizes a user over time and across different sites or online services. That could be an IP address or a cookie when it’s used to serve targeted ads. Keep in mind that an operator also might be collecting personal information through an open comment field on its site or service that allows a user under 13 to make personal information publicly available. For example, think of a comment like this on a child-directed site: My name is Mary Jones from Springfield. I love this video!

How COPPA applies to channel owners

So how does COPPA apply to channel owners who upload their content to YouTube or another third-party platform? COPPA applies in the same way it would if the channel owner had its own website or app. If a channel owner uploads content to a platform like YouTube, the channel might meet the definition of a “website or online service” covered by COPPA, depending on the nature of the content and the information collected. If the content is directed to children and if the channel owner, or someone on its behalf (for example, an ad network), collects personal information from viewers of that content (for example, through a persistent identifier that tracks a user to serve interest-based ads), the channel is covered by COPPA. Once COPPA applies, the operator must provide notice, obtain verifiable parental consent, and meet COPPA’s other requirements. For information on how to comply with COPPA, please visit the FTC’s COPPA page for our Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business.

How channel owners can determine if their content is directed to children

Under COPPA, there is no one-size-fits-all answer about what makes a site directed to children, but we can offer some guidance. To be clear, your content isn’t considered “directed to children” just because some children may see it. However, if your intended audience is kids under 13, you’re covered by COPPA and have to honor the Rule’s requirements.

The Rule sets out additional factors the FTC will consider in determining whether your content is child-directed:

  • the subject matter,
  • visual content,
  • the use of animated characters or child-oriented activities and incentives,
  • the kind of music or other audio content,
  • the age of models,
  • the presence of child celebrities or celebrities who appeal to children,
  • language or other characteristics of the site,
  • whether advertising that promotes or appears on the site is directed to children, and
  • competent and reliable empirical evidence about the age of the audience.

The determination of whether content is child-directed will be clearer in some contexts than in others, but we can share some general rules of thumb. First, unless you’re affirmatively targeting kids, there are many subject matter categories where you don’t have to worry about COPPA. For example, if your videos are about traditionally adult activities like employment, finances, politics, home ownership, home improvement, or travel, you’re probably not covered unless your content is geared toward kids. The same would be true for videos aimed at high school or college students. On the other hand, if your content includes traditional children’s pastimes or activities, it may be child-directed. For example, the FTC recently determined that an online dress-up game was child-directed.

Second, just because your video has bright colors or animated characters doesn’t mean you’re automatically covered by COPPA. While many animated shows are directed to kids, the FTC recognizes there can be animated programming that appeals to everyone.

Third, the complaint in the YouTube case offers some examples of channels the FTC considered to be directed to children. For example, many content creators explicitly stated in the “About” section of their YouTube channel that their intended audience was children under 13. Other channels made similar statements in communications with YouTube. In addition, many of the channels featured popular animated children’s programs or showed kids playing with toys or participating in other child-oriented activities. Some of the channel owners also enabled settings that made their content appear when users searched for the names of popular toys or animated characters. Want to see the FTC’s analysis in context? Read pages 10-14 of the YouTube complaint.

Finally, if you’ve applied the factors listed in the COPPA Rule and still wonder if your content is “directed to children,” it might help to consider how others view your content and content similar to yours. Has your channel been reviewed on sites that evaluate content for kids? Is your channel – or channels like yours – mentioned in blogs for parents of young children or in media articles about child-directed content? Have you surveyed your users or is there other empirical evidence about the age of your audience?

What are the possible penalties for violating COPPA?

The Rule allows for civil penalties of up to $42,530 per violation, but the FTC considers a number of factors in determining the appropriate amount, including a company’s financial condition and the impact a penalty could have on its ability to stay in business. While Google and YouTube paid $170 million, in another COPPA case settled this year, the operator paid a total civil penalty of $35,000.

Isn’t the FTC taking another look at the COPPA Rule?

Yes, the FTC is currently evaluating the Rule in light of rapid changes in technology. If you would like to comment on the effectiveness of the COPPA Rule and whether changes are needed, the FTC has extended the comment deadline to December 9, 2019.

Where can channel owners go for more information?

A look at the factors in the COPPA Rule will help most channel owners determine if their content is directed to children. If you’re still unsure about how COPPA applies to you, consider contacting an attorney or consulting with one of the COPPA Safe Harbor programs – self-regulatory groups that offer guidance on how operators can comply with the law. Visit the FTC’s website for a list of currently approved Safe Harbor organizations. For more resources, visit the FTC’s Children’s Privacy page for our Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business.

 
 
 

Comments

To me this is very sad. All my favorite YouTubers are going to be gone. Please don't do this. They are real people with real dreams.They all could end up on the streets. If a YouTuber has been making family friendly content for years and they have thousands of family friendly videos, they will quite possibly get bankrupt. Please don't do this. I know these YouTubers, they are good people who don't belong one the street. Please think about these human beings. Please. None of them had any idea this was even a rule. And now they are getting punished. They had no idea. This is not the creators faults. You are a government agency, can't you do something that doesn't end up with thousands of people ending up bankrupt. They are not fish in a barrel, they are humans, with feelings. Please don't think about them like that. That made me pretty upset. This is in no way a hate comment. It's just that my favorite YouTubers, these people who have got me through some tough times. They've gotten people through depression. They have faced so much. They've created fan bases. They work hard on there videos. You may have not have known this, but they've been threw a lot. Controversy. Demonetization. Copy right strikes. This is the kind of thing they have to deal with. And these human beings, reduced to fish. Fish. Not to mention how vague the rules are. i don't know if you realize this, but games aren't just for children. Minecraft, roblox, fortnite. Will all the gamers be gone. Just because there are little characters not only children enjoy it. Most Youtubers channels aren't directed to kids. They are for everyone. It's not their fault that some kids will stumble upon their video and enjoy them. They have no control over kids watching there videos. Obviously some kids will stumble upon there video because of the algorithm, but it is not the Youtubers fault. Animators. Will all animation videos get demonetized. Just because there are animations it doesn't mean it's for kids. Like family guy. But obviously kids will stumble upon it and like it. On Youtube there are videos that are obviously for kids. Like the singing the abc's or toy unboxings. This is what is obvious. But games. Because they have characters that could be appealing for kids. But adults like them too. Like Pokemon. It's a game that looks appealing for children, but lots of adults enjoy it too. Minecraft, and Roblox. The rules are just so vague. Will a video get demonetized become some kids just manage to find the video and enjoy it even though it is clearly for people who are above 13. Will they get demonetized. I just don't get it honestly. Just please. Think about this. Think about the real people who work very hard on there videos. Please just don't do it. This is not right. Please.

What happens when someone just uploads their Disney Vacation? Does that mean that parent has to be worried about being in violation of COPPA? What happens to content creators that do videos based on Disney or other kid friendly content and they can't get the ad revenue? I hope that the FTC takes things like this into consideration before bankrupting families that just want to share their time on vacation. Is it getting to the point of making DVDs again and mailing them to family and friends? I hope my comments and questions are closely looked at. I'd hate to see content taken off the internet because of this law. Thank you.

I am aiming for a adult teenager audience our humor is OK I wouldn’t say anything offensive I wouldn’t show acts of breaking the law Or anything else like that or anything else like that I just play games talk about things post Memes and draw that’s it nothing else maybe now and then I will react to something but that’s Harley happens

Yes FTC my question for you is how should you know if something is directed to children under 13 would you go the very obvious route and see if the content -creator/uploader has admitted it and or has it in a title (for kids or kids videos).Have you taken into account that we no longer have computers from 1998 in are houses anymore but more advanced computers in are phone while it way easier for a child to remember a parents email address I can understand that I've done it when I was a child but I dont think the child (under 13) will find out there address just to get on youtube and so can you really blame it on youtube for trying to advertise something based on what your watching because it not very hard.for example if I said my favorite food was pizza your first thought would be they liked this so I'll give the this but with a little more for them to try.
youtube has an option to put I'm not interested it's like Amazon or anything other website with games or videos on it would you sue google for children under 13 having phones and searching up Jake Paul and then news about Jake paul coming up when they open it again you can attempt this yourself in you need to show the head you just get a phone that's never been used and search up one thing open a page about it then exit out of the page and make a new one and news will come up on the thing you searched up so what is going to stop a kid from doing the same also every website sets ads from info about you google collects info from you and then uses it to direct ads to you whenever it feels it needs to.

Please change your policy because it's not the responsibility of the creators to look for children, it's their parents responsibility.

Oh my god thank you. Someone who knows logic here.

My content is made of for every one adult and for kids

Hello I’ve read through all of the contents given in this I would like to share my thoughts on this, I personally think that the fine for violating a rule is quite high I did some research of my own and I think if you did this to any YouTuber they’ll be bankrupt YouTubers aren’t rich and don’t have this kind of money laying around to cover that and I think that’s why lots of people don’t want to continue doing the thing they love (making content) because they don’t want the risk of having to pay that is there anyway You could make it $900 or something lower that’s actually possible to pay off this is mostly because I myself want to start making my own cartoon on the platform and I Don’t want it for kids cuz it’s gonna have adult themes throughout it and I don’t have that kinda money I’m personally still in high school so this’ll be a big problem for me please think about changing it to a reasonable amount (900 and lower would be nice but still)

Hey if youtubes getting punished why aren't the other mass of apps are too? Litteraly every social media does this. Could i get an explaination here?

A word of advice Please treat YouTuber like people working a job just like you, they have emotions and it's important to please treat them like humans instead of robots

For me COPPA can be quite good to protect childrens but it also have s quite big effect on some of the communities on youtube for example the animator and gacha community will be heavily affected some people i know quit youtube because of this. But this is not the only problem what if someone uses youtube for making money? What if it's their only source of income? Alot of people will strugle because of this please update the COPPA rules a bit.

My chennal not for kids

I think we need to examine if COPPA in its new iteration is constitutional. The issue lies in the designation of children or 'kid's' content. Stopping the data collecting of under 13s and requiring Youtubers or whomever to label their own content is fine. However, the term "appeal to children" is problematic and curtails free speech.
Also, allowing YouTube to self monitor with as yet untested Artifical Intelligence, in conjunction with what might constitute a criminal charge disrupts the judiciary process and does not allow anyone who posts content due process, inherently.

I feel like the Federal Trade Commission is throwing Google/YouTube creators under the bus by telling us that if we don't mark our channel(s) correctly that we could be fined a hefty amount of money when it was Google/YouTube that was collecting channel data illegally having NOTHING to do with YouTube Creators.

Please seriously reconsider this. So many people's small businesses and livelihoods are at stake. This is an out of touch decision that protects little to no children, while ruining so many Youtubers incomes. I'm only a viewer, biased, yes, but not tremendously. This NEEDS to be reconsidered

TV programs and video games have a ratings system that tells what is in the content. Based on those ratings parents and guardians are able to determine what can or can not be watched. In some cases kids themselves can see the rating and know if they are or are not allowed to see/play that content. If a rating system was made that worked as it does on TV, where it can be blocked by parents for kids, would that help with being COPPA compliant? By showing a 'FF' rating for 'Family Friendly' content or 'YT14' (YouTube 14+) ext. during the introduction of the video and giving adults the ability to block certain ratings help content creators, the FTC, Youtube, and most important the children all get an outcome where it is fair for everyone?

That’s.....actually a really good idea. I was thinking something similar where is the video contains swearing and stuff like that, some sort of symbol could be next to the title which would mean that it has foul language.

Is there a way you can put made for EVERYONE? because all my content IS made for EVERYONE.

if what I'm hearing is true this implementing this against youtube can put some people out of a job a lot of people make there living off of youtube and a fine of 42,000 is way too much for someone posting videos on the internet youtube was fine before and I really don't think we need to regulate it

I think these new changes don't help to prevent issues on Children Protection Act because there arw many ways to trick the age of children. They might put information that's not accurate, for example their ages. Parents should protect their own child because its their own responsibility in the first place, not the government. Its unfair for us, Youtube Creators

Please aproved youtube my channel

can you please just make It so we can say it is for all ages your causing a lot of panic on me thx <3

My content is for kids

This is unfair for content creators. Youtubers right now are unsure of what category their content is. The "Kids Content" category is too broad. Content creators will have to make a bet on every single video because of this.

Content creators that creates Kids Content will also love 80-90% of their ad revenue. This will surely demotivate and make the lives of those content creators hard. This will make the channels that create content for kids disappear and can't continue making content. Children will watch more "Adult Content" because of this.

Also, the 42k fine per video is absolutely ridicolous. Many content creators will go homeless. Please change the rules.

i went to make my channel for kids

Hello, I made videos with my children.and beside I made videos about travel and event, information about things etc, thank u

What do I do if the video is for all ages like its neutral?

I personally think that this whole thing is a bad Idea because a lot of people watch YouTube who are younger and will probably not have any thing to do on their free time and so many peoples lives will be ruined

Please don't go through with this, it will ruin everything youtube has built! Please reconsider

I think this will really be hard for some people to understand but my question is why don’t u guys make us choose the age of people should watch our videos and save it like my videos are about gaming and in my creator studio it says my viewers are 13 and above while others it says are 18-24 and other it says are 50-60 does it mean my videos are made for kids ?

Hi FTC,

What if any video on YouTube has swearing or other obscene scenes even if it also includes games, cartoon figures or others that are kid friendly content?

So here's a hypothetical for you. A channel directed exclusively at babies, literally 0-1 year olds. These babies cannot use the device to browse to the content. It is their parents and carers that are the 'users' in this case, correct?
If such a channel could provide empirical evidence in the form of a survey of the audience that proves that the overwhelming majority of the audience that are 'in control' of the device while viewing the content are adults, is this channel illegally collecting personal data from children?

Please can u tell us how this applys to family vloggers who will vlog days out and hoildays these arent really aimed at kids but will watch

I do not believe that this is a valid way to deal with Youtube's child advertising.
Youtube is a platform filled with millions of content creators where it is impossible to hand sift through it's contents to find anything that violates it's new laws. It depends on A.I. to do the heavy lifting, and that A.I. isn't exactly as reliable as they would have you believe.
If an A.I. has the ability to instantly fine anybody up to $42,530 dollars per video, it has the ability to wipe out families and companies over night, sending economies across the globe to come crashing down as a large amount of money, presumably in the billions would disappear from the bank accounts of thousands over night.

And just imagine the legal battles that would take place, court rooms would be filled with nothing but creators trying to get appeals in order to stay out of the poverty line.

It's not a good idea to fine an anonymous person on the internet any amount of money if it means sending thousands into debt.

How are channels supposed to be compliant if they don't have control over their audience? the intended audience isn't necessarily the audience they get and content creators may make their content 'child-friendly' but it's still not always meant for children. The internet isn't something you can make broad laws on when it's so nuanced and so many people's lives depend on it. People need to learn how the internet really works before they make changes that affect the entirety of the world.

Video creators can’t control what kids watch, I don’t understand why we’re getting punished for something that we have no control over. There are gaming and unboxing videos that are not kid friendly at all, but you guys say it is, so it is. We have no control and there is nothing we can do about the subject at hand. Please read this and consider looking into it more. Thank you!

This has gone way too far. My apologies, but this idea is probably one of the worst ideas I have heard of so far. A lot of people who gain money from making youtube videos are going to be affected. A lot of lives are going to be ruined. Eventually YouTube is going to start losing a lot of users. Most of the kids on YouTube don't watch kid-friendly things. Instead, they actually watch whatever they want. It's not YouTube's fault for this. Parents are at fault. Parents are the one who allow their kids to do whatever they want on YouTube. I hope you make some changes and don't go too crazy on this. This is just going to repeat itself on other video-sharing websites. Have a wonderful day (if you're reading this)

Thank you SO much for this. Though it still seems a little broad, it still put me at ease.

So many people were freaking out about this because MANY YouTuber I watch direct their content to everyone. However, would this include those who play videogames that could be made for kids? I know plenty of people who play games like Minecraft that cuss A L O T in their videos.

But thanks again! YouTube gave us all little explanations to what was made for kids and what was not. But please make this better understandable for those who don't understand!!

Since the definition of child attractive it's so broad, I think that before people are fined, they should get a warning and maybe about 30 to 60 days to come into compliance of the COPPA law.
There are several content creators that have characters that children can like and action figures/toys in their videos but they are not targeting children under 13. But the videos are still for a general audience because YouTube wants us to make our videos family friendly and not have a bunch of violence and cursing. Or because these people have family who watch them and they don't want to be disrespectful.
A lot of people aren't intentionally breaking the law so a warning would be awesome. Some of my friends who are grown adults who has been sharing their geek (Nerd, pop culture) life with the world and have over 3,000 videos. When I found those videos I never for once thought that only kids under 13 year old would be watching them.

How about just stop the data mining all together so that we can stop being marketing targets. That would resolve this whole thing. I don't think this covers the crafting community where things are made for kids by adults, so making toys and dolls, where does that fall?? Teaching a craft, where does that fall?? Specifics please.

I want to know if you are clear that Japanese anime is not childish content at all, and don't confuse it

Unfortunately the wording is too ambiguous. For example my 10 year old nephew watches painting videos not aimed at children but interesting to children ... he enjoys them and has improved his painting skills dramatically! There are many crafting and hobby channels on YouTube that are interesting to children but not aimed at them eg. Crafting (patchwork, scrapbooking, painting etc.) some children may like to watch but which do involve needles, varnish etc. Also game playing or collectibles. There should be an option like 'Mixed audience/parental advisory'. Surely parents have to take some responsibility for their under 13 year old children. If this goes ahead in it's present form You Tube will have no family friendly content and will become a cesspool of extreme 'adult' content!

Please don't let this go through, it has so many flaws. It will only hurt everyone.

Coppa is way too strict and vague it needs to be repealed or updated immediately

youtube is the best of life for enjoy

The description of what is considered child content is too vague. For example I crate videos which feature model trains and not toy trains. Manufacturers of model trains such as Lionel have recommended ages of 14 & up printed on the boxes. If I go by this then my videos are not targets at kids which is 13 and under. However does the FTC define a difference between a toy and a model or even a difference between a chillds toy and adult collectible. I ran the lifetime statics on my YouTube channel and no one under 18 has viewed it. Also why disable comments on YouTube. I have mine set to approve so I screen every comment to make sure it is appropriate to show up. Why can't YouTube put a age barrier program in place so ads and data won't be retrieved by any viewers who are 13 and under? Basically the way YouTube has changed the rules the channels marked made for kids content won't be promoted, will have comments disabled and notifications removed. This has ended pretty much any channel that depends on YouTube for money or promoting a hobby.

I am still worried about channels that review, theorize, or parody about children shows or movies, like Pokemon for example. They shouldn't be punished just for using topic popular with children. Context is very important here and that's something robots on Youtube wont be able to analyze.

I feel that the onus for advertising and management of access should not be on content creators on a shared platform. Especially one such as YouTube that has In the past inserted advertising into videos that were never intended to have any due to their mistaken belief the content had a claim by a third party.
With such automated systems already mucking up creators abilities to control advertising and access to their own videos it should be the host site's responsibility to restrict access to above 13, as the original law intended instead of punishing creators who create videos that may unintentionally draw draw In 12 year olds who share interests with 15 year olds.

Proof of age could and should be more strict if this is a serious issue.

The rules are to vauge. Anything you do could be classified as family friendly even if you are doing not family friendly things. This will absolutely ruin YouTube and spme of the stock market. Please ether make your own type of youtube and make clear and direct rules or fix coppa

My videos are made for everyone it's so confusing I don't know.

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