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

Don't you guys think your wording is too vague.

This entire thing can ruin people's lives, you can't decide that what we make is for kids if we say it is not, you are scare mongering, kids will still watch videos that are not for kids that's not the content creators fault and yet they are the ones who will suffer for this

Whats happens:
If a creator uploads a video,
ticks the box declaring that the content is not for children
a bot or human MANUALLY recategorises the content as suitable for children

Who's responsible for that video now?

I ask as I have seen some creators having this done to them which they have caught on video.

Seems like a brilliant way for someone to ruin someones channel/income, because the person manually checking doesn't care about the creators, just cares about his/her own pay packet... which is probably pennies compared to the creators earnings.

About the coppa rule, is Gacha life could be considered 'child-appealing' ???

What if someone is making a reaction video about some animated character but the person reacting to the video is swearing or the animation is doing inappropriate Acts, is that still directed directly towards children?

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.

What if my content is directed at a 13+ but has the slangs and sayings of a 12 year old?

YouTube has rules that children under 13 should not be on YouTube, but instead on their site YouTube kids. This would put 100s or 1000s if people out of a job.

Dear FTC
As of right now there are a lot of content creators using YouTube as their main source of income and as the Coppa law comes into place many of them will lose the opportunity for their usual viewers to watch their videos and this is also taking their jobs from them just by making them list their video as “for kids”. Please reconsider this decision
Yours sincerely, a YouTube viewer

Many YouTube content creators can't afford any fine at all. I know at least one whose in his preteens, and know there are more teenage and younger people out there who make videos.

Are you planning on slapping twelve-year-olds with tens of thousands of dollars in fines they can't hope to afford just because they pushed the wrong button when they made their video? If so than you clearly don't actually care about protecting kids at all.

The COPPA rules are far too broad for the current state of digital media.
Often times content is for both Adults and children, are the current definition of what is for children is inaccurate.
For example bright colors are often used for Adults as well because you need to catch the eye of a viewer to get them to watch the video. Or often now Adults watch animation The is geared for Adults, I.E. Rick and Morty, Archer, Anime like Attack on Titan.

This current rules do not fit the current climate of digital media, and this much be changed so that we can still protect children and not destroy creators that are aimed at Adults. Please amend this rules in a mannor that will be able to protect children properly.

There are social media lawyers who have read this, and don't clearly understand which videos are targeted for kids. I am a small channel owner, but I don't think my channel is for kids, because it's dangerous by nature. I do however have a daughter, and my wife has been scared that she will lose many of the channels that, my daughter loves to watch so much. This is because of the fear that many of the channel owners are facing. If a parent allows their child on YouTube; they are consenting to youtube collecting data on their child. I have known they do that, as long as I have used YouTube. Personally; I would rather my daughter be exposed to personalized ads about playdough; instead of being exposed to random ads, that may or may not be appropriate.

This doesnt help......

if in a video for children in a few minutes some blasphemies or swear words and still for children appear? for example in a 5-minute video for children but at 2 minutes a dirty word or blasphemy appears and again for children?

First thanks for clearing up some of the confusion, but this rules are still extremely vague. Like say Disney if I make a video about a disney movie. I would like to be able to talk to people in the chat. Now I know the FTC isn’t disabling the chat I know that is on Youtube/Google. But because of a law made almost 25 years ago that the FTC is updating I can not talk about a disney movie in fear on a huge fine. Please look in to this law more and try to make it more fare. I just what to make a Disney video with out a fear of a fine.

There are a lot of animators that make adult content. If someone labels their stuff for adult. Then it is for adult and shouldn't be fine because some idiot doesn't take the time to properly understand the content.

Same goes for video games. Many video games are for a mature audience but get labeled for child because it is a video game.

This doesn’t help anyone.

I don't think it's right to fine YouTubers slot of money for not making it is content. I am trying to start my own channel and it's going to be much harder. I have a 6 year old autistic son who feels better when he watches some of his channels. I monitor his channels. I think I should be in charge, not the government.

people controlling channel(/s) do not have complete control the ads that play on their videos let alone know what ads play(they only know the categories of the ads). the platform(youtube) is collecting the data, the only difference is the channel will get a harsh fine for incorrect labeling. i understand that COPPA needs to be put in place; but the method youtube is implementing it seems self defeating and harmful to kids creators. another issue arising if for the middle ground which is something you address, but youtube does not do as a method of exploit. content creators are getting punished for youtube's wrong doing; you are allowing the perpetuation of what you're supposed to prevent by allowing another part of the consumers(content creators) to be subject to unfair treatment. sure content creators produce content to consume, but they are still consumers of the youtube service.

hello there my name is Ryan and I just want to say kid appealing is not the same as just for kids I make a lot of family friendly content that has to do with kids and adults and I don't understand what I put my content under because it's not just for kids and it's not just for adults and there's no third option on YouTube like if I make a video about Disneyland Disneyland's not just for kids it's for kids and adults so what do I put that video under this is a bad ideas you guys need to hold off until YouTube can fix it where there's a third option because this will destroy a lot of family friendly content the kid only content will leave the platform because there will be no money in it for them and there will only be adult videos on the platform which kids will still see and this is very very bad because there will not be no family friendly content cuz there's no third option Help me please

-Content creators do not collect data on children for advertising or anything else.
-YouTube has not gone the best job with ensuring that the members of their website are 13 and up
up.
-YouTube has a child friendly app.
-The specific characteristics to determine if a video or videos are towards children or not are extremely vague and broad.
-Not every piece 9f content is for kids. This includes cartoons as well.
-Parents depend on apps to babysit their children and typically don't monitor what the children to watch.

The Six-Step Compliance Plan for Your Business says You must comply with COPPA if:

Your website or online service is directed to children under 13 and you collect personal information from them.

OR

Your website or online service is directed to children under 13 and you let others collect personal information from them.

OR

Your website or online service is directed to a general audience, but you have actual knowledge that you collect personal information from children under 13.

OR

Your company runs an ad network or plug-in, for example, and you have actual knowledge that you collect personal information from users of a website or service directed to children under 13.

The COPPA laws need to be addressed before addressing the channel owners. Parents need to be more aware of the what they are doing when they buy their 6 year a cell phone or hand their phone over without enabling a kids mode. As a gaming channel geared towards 18 and up audiences and not recommend to anybody under 13, this scares me. As a parent, I am appalled that so many people let their kids watch something and then blame the creator for their own ignorance.

Do I have to make a verificable parental consent if I mark my videos on Youtube as: "made for kids", without having an external software that colects personal information of people under 13 years old?

COPPA needs to stop right now!

does fortnite count as kid content? (of course theres guns, death and stuff but it is just a video game.)

Hey FTC. Can you please make YouTube have a General Audience option in the channel settings? Because as far as I know they still haven't put one in yet.

Thanks for the update, my channel isn’t made for kids just for the real thing, my channel is for adults only

Good read! My problem is as a hunter and Fisher I may see things as being safe for children since I believe with safe practice kids can hunt and fish but some parents may see the killing of animals as not being something safe for their children to see. How do I determine what's ok and what's not.

Hello my channel is mostly focused on reviewing albums and my general audience is teens and adults and is also my target audience. I need to know where i can make sure my content is not for kids due to me swearing here and there and the context and concept of the albums i am reviewing are not safe for kids to listen too. Where do i check off my content as "not for kids"

You need to reconsider. This is going to ruin lives. A $40,000 fine PER VIDEO can gave such an impact on so many channels, especially ones I myself have grown to watch and love. You may say that there can only be two options, one for "MADE FOR KIDS" and one for "MADE FOR ADULTS" but what about content for EVERYONE? You need to recognize that if family friendly channelschannels or channels that have no choice (especially go for channels with no choice) go for the kids option, it will be like there content, their channel, their life work won't even exist. You're also quite vague with what you call "made for kids" content ... are you saying that only animation and arts/crafts are just for kids? This isn't true! Many people enjoy cartoons as well, and there's even adult animations as Family Guy, who deal with mature topics. I guess in you're eyes that's "made for kids" as well. Please, PLEASE, for the future of YouTube, you need to reconsider what you are doing. It's the patents job to decide what the kids watch, not yours. Encourage to use YouTube Kids, the app made for them specifically, instead of causing every single inspiring content creator to lose their freedom. YouTube is a site for people over 13+, it was NEVER intended for kids in the first place! I suggest that you make family friendly/kids channels upload their content exclusively for the YouTube Kds app instead of putting all this stress and nervousness onto all of us.
Please, FTC. If you're reading this ... for the future of y. Reconsider you're decision.

Why did you do this to everyone? I need a answer soon

Just get parents to make their kids watch YouTube kids

I believe that if COPPA is applied to YouTube content creators, it will cause many creators who rely on their channels to survive to create much more extreme content in order to ensure that their videos are not considered child friendly under COPPA. In turn, many of the children who are using the site without the approval of their parents will be exposed to far more graphic and vulgar content than they otherwise would, because of this shift in creator culture. For instance, the movie Deadpool is about a funny, vulgar Marvel character. Marvel movies are certainly something children are interested in, but Deadpool, while being a Marvel character and featuring other child-friendly Marvel characters, is certainly not a child-friendly movie. If you went to the movie store and picked up Deadpool for your child to watch instead of a Spiderman movie, you were probably looking into this movie at surface-level and should have thought harder about if this content is appropriate for your child.

In conclusion, I believe it should be a parent's responsibility to make sure a video on YouTube is appropriate for their child, not a responsibility for a content creator.

Creators should not be responsible for ad content when they cannot choose the content of the ads and they do not control the cookies that is done by Google and is their responsibility.......

I'm sure this has been said many times, but these changes - although possibly good in some ways for the protection of children - could really harm a lot of wonderful creators on this platform! There are many channels that I and a lot of others know and love that we want to make sure stay. It's understandable that some rules are being applied for safety. But, please don't let it force good channels, that may be considered directed at children in some ways, to stop uploading or to decrease their content. We love these channels and they create content that makes us happy. There are good creators that make a lot of kids happy too. It is possible that all these changes are going to do is make it so that less kids want to watch videos on this platform, and that would really be sad. What I'm asking is : please don't let good creators on the platform be harmed by this. Thank you.

This rule is much too harsh. Much of the content on YouTube is not directed towards children but still safe for them to watch. By punishing those who make such content, you're ruining the creative community of YouTube. There are already people leaving the site for fear of the fine.

I am a gaming Youtuber (albeit a very small one) and i am worried for my content. My channel is not intended for kids (it is for ages 13+ as i swear profusely in my videos and later content will NOT be very child-friendly), though some of my games that i play may appear to be kid-friendly. I do not have the money to pay any fines and i really do not want to delete my channel/not upload for fear i will be attacked because of the vagueness of this law.

Hi,

Please give us a list of channels (for example 20) so creators can know what COPPA is going to cover.
And also, how can You decide what is made for 12 years old and 15? :)

Dear FTC
I was wondering how I could turn my channel on so it’s not meant for kids,
Also if you do not post on your channel do we still get fined please answers these questions thank you for reading this comment
Sincerely
Anonymous

This confuses me because my channel has modified nerf blasters and I don’t know where it should go. Because it involves Nerf blasters being modified.

What If I have a Old channel that fits your description of "being directed towards children". Could I still face fines?

I understand that these efforts mean well, but some terms are incredibly vague, for example, "appealing to kids." The reason this is vague is that this term becomes unpredictable and volatile over time. An example in motion would be if a content creator made something that was originally for adults but was somehow also appealing to kids after some time. That would raise the question of whether or not a fine can be placed on older content.

Also, this Rule attacks animations on the YouTube platform. Animations not directly intended for kids still attract them because of their cartoon elements. What I am asking is the absolute, black-and-white definition of an animation that is made for kids, as before the settlement, I was keen on starting production on animated content.

However, after you as a Commission review the Rule, this situation will be remedied.

-TheRedEncryption

May the FTC look at the price for violating the new terms and conditions can. What if a family uploads a video but doesn't have the money to pay for it, or what if they don't know about the changes so they are not in debt

I currently watch YouTube and I do not agree with what you are trying to do with this Coppa effect. This will take away all of the videos I love that not targeted at children just because they are craft, Disney, and color related. This is wrong.

Hi, can you please not take your law out on individual content creators and actually start holding parents responsible for their kids? thank you.

I have two questions. If your channel or video is accidentally labeled as "Made for Adults" and COPPA determines it's made for kids, will you still be fined? Also, if Youtube labels your videos automatically, and you want to change those automatic, is it possible to do so?

YouTube should be mandated to have a separate YouTube platform for kids only and parents should be on board or be accountable for children under 13yrs old having a YouTube account.

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