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

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.

Save family friendly you tube channels - be more specific on the child content - I watch all Disney and universal etc content etc and I’m an adult

This is kind of confused , noo nice at all

Just because a YouTube channel has to do with "bright colors" and partially giving out educational doesn't mean its associated with COPPA

Listen our new adpocalypse is coming now, and I’m a little bit scared that I won’t get money, and I won’t get notifications and comments, and considering the fact that I will make a show about me reviewing Disney movies, I don’t wanna be called a kids channel, so please, I don’t want to be apart of this

Dear FTC

The selection of these themes is too wide to sort and too broad to classify for kids
For example...
Lego is a huge category (i am a huge Lego fan) that includes lego city, lego star wars, lego Duplo, lego architecture etc
while lego city and Duplo are targeted at kids, star wars and architecture are targeted at adults and teens. this causes a problem as if lego star wars channels or videos about lego for adults are marked as not for kids, the video and creator can possibly be fined for doing the right thing and in turn, destroying their career. to conclude this part of my statement, don't judge a book by its cover, as it could possibly show inappropriate content to kids or destroy the YouTubers life if they get fined for doing the right thing. Not to mention, lego is expensive, costing often over 100 USD. By marking all lego videos for kids and stripping them of 80-90% of ad revenue, it can kill the channel due to the money used to buy the lego now being ripped away from them, meaning their career would be destroyed

Bottom line, this classification system will destroy some much-loved YouTubers and their careers due to their new sorting system that would ether strip their content of their revenue or fine them beyond bankruptcy

So please FTC revert or modify the law passed as this will kill Youtube and the people who we have grown up with and continue to make our day better

sincerely Creeper_LORD44

The COPPA act is unfair to youtubers who spend a lot of time to make their videos,
Not all video games are ment for kids 13 years or younger, if you haven’t notice on some games they have an age restriction
Also, not all YouTubers are ment for children under the age of 13, and also maybe parents shouldn’t get mad at YouTube for something their child did, when a child (13 years or younger) watches a YouTuber who’s audience is for 16 years or older
Also for the YouTubers channel is ment for kids age 13 and younger shouldn’t be finded either
YouTube is supposed to be for everyone, why must that be ruined with the COPPA act? Is it really worth it?

With all honestly this whole thing is unfair to the thousands of people on YouTube who just post small videos talking about movies, video games, etc... most of them don't have that kind of money to pay such a ridiculous fine. On top of that the rules are so vague that there's no telling what the ftc is going to classify a video as. I'm also sure that who ever is in charge of this whole thing probably has no idea how you tubers work and make their videos, that's how it always goes. Parenting should be done by the parents. Not the government.

You can see examples of channels the FTC considered to be directed to children in the complaint in the YouTube case.

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. Read pages 10-14 of the YouTube complaint to see the FTC’s analysis in context.

Use ful information thanks to share info

As a creator, my biggest concern is that my content can be seen as a mix of both. I have young characters and they might appeal to children, but the content and the video itself isn’t for kids. Plus there would be lot’s of creators that want to make there videos just for an older audience, but the video and characters would appeal to children.
I propose that YouTube creators should be able to restrict there video to older audiences no matter what the content; or who the characters might be. By this I mean that if a creator makes a character or uses a character that appeals to children, and the said character is doing a children friendly activity, but the creator does not want children watching there channel. They should be allowed to state that even the one children friendly video is not directed to kids.

Sir i am from India and I want to know, are students of High school (Class 11 & Class 12 Science) Kids? I teach Chemistry subject for every one.

You not supposed to do that to youtube you don't Let what about a deal for YouTube what about you can delay the Jan 1 2020 to January 12 2023 ok we will get the money and the 45 million dollars ok promise

Doesn’t this organization realize that google and YouTube are trying to remove the responsibility that they put on there hands on to the community that that has nothing to do with their income methods and vocally protests whenever they put idiotic and anti consumer malarkey

Hey. I’m a small creator that runs 2 channels and I post family friendly content on YouTube and it should be open to everyone no matter what age it is. This new idea of deleting family friendly content is unreasonable because it’s been proven that 81% of parents care about what their kids are watching. I would rather have you guys tell YouTube to create a separate kids’ page for kids content if you carry out this law. And the main YouTube page can contain family friendly and mature content for kids older than 13. Otherwise, the best idea is to leave the small creators like me alone and continue what they love doing for their channels. Please consider this comment as this is not only scaring me, but millions of other small creators too.

this is very stupid and needs to stop take this down you are making a huge mistake many people's dreams will be destroyed and the suicide rate will take a massive jump.

Man calm down, dont exaggerate!

will inactive channels that haven't been used in 5+ years still be fined even if you don't have the password for the channel or even the username?

How I'm feeling about this situation is I don't know what will happen but not to jump to conclusions. If something bad may happen to one of my favorite channels I've watched over the years. I would feel betrayed after my whole experience of being entertained. Where else are we going to watch and have a good and fun time to experience? If we choose to aim it for kids, what's the point of having NO Likes, Dislikes, No Notifications and No Comments? And if we choose to aim it for adults, does every adult video have to be UNSEEN? What happened with making sure if anyone's 18 or older instead of taking it away. Just because most videos that are for everyone doesn't mean they're always just for kids only. When videos are meant to be for adults, then they are for adults. If videos are meant to be for kids, then they are for kids. And if they are for everyone, then they are for everyone. Which is why I hopefully wish luck on the creators with their efforts they have entertained for us. To create more ideas, to create more videos for the future and make it more easier for the creators to have a better career for them.

Im a creator on youtube I like to create animation memes (basically mini music videos) these include animals within it, I also like to do speedpaints, and animated storytimes they may be child attractive but my videos are directed towards teens 13 and older what should I consider my videos

Okay, this is a much better approach towards this aspect of the law, but I still believe that the fine is way too much. Many Youtubers have hundreds of videos per channel, now some YouTubers range from 14 (a year above the youtube age limit, so do not worry there) and above, those who are at a younger age (myself included) use Youtube as a way to provide entertainment, now if a 14-year-old child was fined 35,000 dollars for a mis-advertised video they would never be able to pay that off. And if you add onto every video they do plus with all the other YouTubers you may fine for miss advertising, you would break the economy and we would go into another depression. Now, FTC I understand you want to keep children safe, but look at other crimes, some are in the thousands, not the hundred thousand.

Everything else on this bill seems fairly reasonable (besides the ad revenue going down, but that could be fixed with an update to the platform and non0-targeted ads being on the children's channels). This is a much better improvement, good job staff and team that provided this!

What would the rules be for gaming youtube content creators be would a video game rated teen or mature be liable under COPPA just like games rated E for everyone.

"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."

Better clarification is all well and good, but this implies that YouTube shares the information that's collected with the Content Creators. YouTube shares none of that information with them. If you need to fine anyone, fine YouTube because they are in control of the data collection/collected data. Make YouTube add a "general audiences" option because that's where most Creator's content falls. You're all about getting that parental consent, but you fail to understand that a parent giving their small child unfettered access to YouTube proper IS parental consent. To comment, like/dislike on a video, or otherwise interact with Creators on their channel REQUIRES a YouTube account which in turn means that the person needs to be 13 years or older. YouTube is not at fault for the parents of these young children not parenting their children, however they are at fault for pushing to make more family friendly content.

YouTube is to blame for a lot of this, but you are leaving the parents blameless, which is a travesty.

Is Minecraft Content "Made for kids"?

I dont think so.

Dear FTC comment reader (or the junk pile in case no one really reads this),
It is common sense to protect a child's personal information. However, it is not common sense to punish independent creators. The vague and nebulous criteria for kids content in the 2002 COPPA survey and the factors stated on this website do not help determine what constitutes child focused material or are outdated notions of what "normal" teens and adults watch and policing of this policy will be detrimental to content creators, whose livelihoods depend on ad revenue from YouTube.
In the definitions for children's content, the FTC states that subject matter appealing to children - such as video games, cartoon characters, fantasy - determines if content is child-directed. However, the results from the 2002 study do not support the reality on YouTube. Videos about retro video games that target everyone, such as the Pokemon, may be played for nostalgia for the 1990's and obviously not be directed at children. In reality, 8 year old children are watching Jake Paul videos - ridiculous over the top videos of varying subject matter - and the channel's creators not the content is the greatest determining factor in deciding if it's kid's content.
Secondly, the method for creators to identify children's content is inherently flawed and the punishments for getting it wrong are draconic. While YouTube and Google love to brag about their machine learning system, to appease the FTC - the reality is that it will never be able to find out all the content covered by COPPA and the cost for a false positive is too high - someone's livelihood - the way someone puts food on the table. The majority of the money made by creators is made in the first few days a video is posted. The statement after the settlement of the FTC guy saying they have the tools to search through every YouTube video to find a non COPPA compliment one is a lie - meant to scare and deter people from continuing with their livelihood.
Yes, it was wrong of YouTube to not have the safeguards in place to protect children's policy. However, instead of using the money from the settlement to go to the Treasury department or to bring lawsuits against individual creators, a better use would be to educate parents on online literacy and to pay consultants who actually use and understand YouTube. Instead of punishing all creators, even those who are not covered by COPPA, use your power to educate parents, because ultimately it is the parent's right to control what a child should watch, not the government or a corporation.

YouTube will be destroyed if this continues

This is too vague, I make League of Legends videos (game with animated characters for 13+).
My videos are not intended for children at all, I even casually curse and kids are not interested in moba games that are far too complicated for their age. It's not like mario kart or even pokemon.

Even if I made pokemon content thatd be SO unfair. adults like pokemon.

this whole thing really needs to be reviewed, many many peoples income and future on the line, and technology is advancing it is no longer 1998, everyone uses the internet to entertain themelves no one watches TV anymore it is too fake and controlled by boomers

According to your laws, adults can't like or be entertained by anything animated, bright colors, music, etc!!! I am a 25 year old woman who LOVES the same content as you claim only children enjoy. You need to reevaluate the world.

Hi, do you realise how this will affect individuals who’s whole life’s are YouTube. I’m not talking about the top channels I’m talking about the small individual channels that work hard to provide content for everyone that are going to get hit hardest. I’m all for looking after kids but punishing the masses is not the way Togo about this

Hello I'm concerned on the way your handling the youtube issue. As you may know several people make a living off youtube and youtube has turned into a job that is taken seriously. I can see that your trying to monitor kid targeted content through youtube so nothings making kids give out personal information or to sell something to them. One there is an app called youtube kids specificly for a reason and number two the way your claiming what is directed towards kids is flawed. For explaple you say one of the things that is "directed towards kids" is animation, if thats the case would you say that south park, family guy, and the simpsons are directed towards kids. If you said no you would be correct and you couldent really do anything about it. The same thing goes for youtube animators, they may have fun cartoon charters and they don't swear in fear of demonitization but they are not for kids and there afraid that they can't do there job anymore because of this. Another thing that attracts kids are video games but there are plenty of video games such as Outlast, doki doki literature club, happy wheels, and so many more that arent targeted towards kids. On top of that even with games that target kids the commantary on them might not be. There are also cooking videos, music, cartoon impressions, theroys and so much more content that could pull kids in but isent ment for kids. It makes no sense to punish someone for content that they have been making for a living directing it to an older audince for years. If this goes through people will lose jobs, others will get angry, and generally theres a lot lost. This isent fair, you ether need to fix the standards and punishment or this can't happen at all. Thank you for your consideration.

Please reconsider this rule. It takes away a parents freedom to choose how to raise their child and quite frankly seems unconstitutional. You’ll be hurting thousands of content creators, taking away their one source of income or fining them into the ground and absolutely ruining their lives. All while making YouTube an even more dangerous place for kids. Many parents are saying they would rather have an ad targeted towards their kids about a toy than just anything. Please reconsider

Why does youtuber have to pay 42k per video

This while thing has left me with a lot of anxiety, I'm someone who has abandoned accounts, those that I for the love of trying cannot get into.
All videos are uploaded before COPPA even came into law, I live in the UK do I don't even know if that helps me when it comes to the fines. I don't want to be taken to court or fined for something I can't control. YouTube has the ability to see when an account was last logged in to, there are going to be those out there who are not aware of COPPA with abandoned accounts. Please take this into consideration, instead abandoned accounts I believe that haven't been logged into for a year or more should be instead removed. Save the small YouTubers who will have nothing in ways or means of paying fines. Please consider the lives you will inevitably ruin, we aren't companies or businesses. We shouldn't be made to suffer for YouTube''s mistake. Consider delaying the Rule until a later date and everything is considered.

Then what was YouTube Kids for!?

I still think this is incredibly vague. WHAT type of animated characters are you talking about? Does anime count as animated characters? And WHAT IS THE AGE OF MODELS?!?! I hate this, I've been getting depression from this ever since.

What about cartoon characters? Toons will be banished off of YouTube if they keep doing this! COPPA is the Judge Doom of YouTube now.

My youtube channel is just tv-related stuff, so it's not for kids. How will it be?

We understand the need for safety, however, this is hurting MANY creators who depend on advertisers. There needs to be another way to correct this, perhaps by DISABLING Cookies or like many websites, give the OPTION to disable cookies on YouTube. Also, we need to look at content that is intended for FAMILY viewing, where parents/guardians are with the children viewing. Small creators, such as myself and my teenage son who is autistic and chose this a possible profession due to his needs, we are being hurt and frankly feel as if our rights are being taken away to freely create, produce and share content that is family friendly and appeals to all ages while trying to generate revenue.

Is Sonic the Hedgehog considered kid friendly? I have many videos that have Sonic in them. Spongebob is in some of them too, including Mario. Are any of those characters kid friendly?

As an adult, I believe it is ridiculous that I am required to send an email to YT in order to give them permission to show content to my children. In today's technological environment, an email us far too cumbersome (consider that YT would receive BILLIONS of emails a day if it obeyed this law, which is impossible to respond to in a quick fashion). In today's world, parental consent should be implied, because it's impossible to accurately verify it due to the sheer bulk of users. Besides, how are targeted add harming children anyway? If a child clicks on an ad, it's impossible for them to buy anything, unless they have access to their parents' credit card, which would imply parental consent! They can bug their parents to buy something for them, but in the end that's the Parent's choice, not the child's. The fact that a child even has access to a device that can access the internet implies parental consent, since most kids get those devices from their parents!

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