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

After viewing all of the most popular YouTuber responses to COPPA, I want to add to a prior comment expressing my concerns. The FTC's guidelines at present are extremely vague and arguably overly broad, and it's this that is causing a tremendous amount of anxiety in the content creator community due to the immediate threat of large, life-ruining fines. I would encourage the FTC to establish a system where YouTubers concerned about how some of their videos might be classified can submit their channel to the FTC for review without the threat of fines. After the FTC has made decisions on a few hundred of these channels, and these decisions have been debated, all parties will have a much better understanding of how to classify gray area videos and what impacts these changes are likely to have on the future of the platform. The FTC may then wish to revise and clarify some guidelines so as not to drive away family-friendly content in favor of adult-targeted content, and I suggest that the update of this law allow them to do so later next year.

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

The FTC should not be involved with the regular youtube site, instead they should be more involved with youtube kids. Youtube kids is all kid content, and thats why they made it so regular youtube is untouched and for mature audiences.

Coppa is ruining youtube

We really need this? I mean why we have to look for children why they parents cant look for them? And tob be find whit 42.503 per vidwo is to much...for example what if a kid what is about 14 or 13 dont know how to determinate if him video is made or not for kids? U will make him parents to pai 42.503 and destroy him and his parents life? And about the animation how exactly to determinate which animation is made or not for kids? what if the subject are a marture one ex policy and the music are for kids? And about the coments i don't think a kil will just comment from no were "Hey im Mike im 9 and im from Canada i love ur vid". I don't think kids or evryone need COPPA. One more thing what about creators what made content for children? what they will do go and work at a McDonald's? someone creators live with money what make from yt.

This is stupid. First of all, what's the reason for fining content creators $42k? That seems a bit excessive. Secondly, if you strip every feature from children's content creators, they will all just quit or never be found, and kids will only find mature content on YouTube instead of kids content that you want. Also, what the actual heck do the requirements mean? You could pretty much mark any video on YouTube from these requirements.

So, first off, you must be thirteen years of age or older to make a YouTube account. Because of this rule, there is implied parental/user consent. Second off, there is specific website called YouTube kids for children under the age of thirteen, and is ad-free and separate from YouTube itself. It is not YouTube's job to find a way to keep kids on their respective site, that is indeed the parents' jobs. Third off, define a targeted ad. Because with today's technology, merely watching TV tells companies what ads to give you. Finally, YouTube is an entertainment platform built on the very same idea that America was founded on; freedom do and say things freely, even make a living, with the government telling what they can and cannot do. I would suggest that this somehow manages to make it through, that you all immediately turn your eyes to even bigger fish that make MUCH more money on targeted ads at children.

Terms are way too vague The reason is honorable but the ways this being done will ruin people’s lives and careers.

While I appreciate that some of our concerns and questions have been addressed, these rules are still vague. Such as, what defies as “child activities”? Does this include certain tv shows, music, or games? You have acknowledged some of this content on YouTube is made/appealed towards both kids and adults, but does this mean only certain family-friendly content is allowed? There are many innocent creators on YouTube who simply want to share their passions with everyone (kids and adults) who are panicking on whether their content would be fined or not. Thank you for answering some of our questions, but there is still many left that we are unsure and worried about.

How about simplifying the content rating system similar to tv and movies, and instituting parental controls so parents can (must) decide what restrictions to impose.

I feel like this new rule is overly strict. Being one of many animators on YouTube, I'm honestly scared to upload content anymore since I have bright and colorful characters. Plus, a lot of the things I upload don't comply with this rule. I just want to express myself and upload completely harmless and fun content.

I really don’t think that there would have a majority in finances,politics,and other stuff . What you people are talking to us about still would make a lot of people lose jobs 。

This will make a HUGE impact on many content creators like myself.. So many communities will be affected if this new law does pass. I’ll list a couple of communities that will be affected.. The Gacha community, gaming community, crafting, etc. This rule will literally affect millions of people who make content on here, as well as making a-full-time job out of youtube! It’s really unfair. People could go bankrupt, go homeless and etc. Please, reconsider this new law. Youtube could be killed by 2020. Also, I wish parents would actually take responsibility and monitor their children’s time online, it’s not the creators fault for “gathering information” from children, it’s Youtube/Google! I’m a Gachatuber myself, and I’m really scared in case I loose my channel, AND my fans!! So many peoples’ lives depend on Youtube for making money, please, stop. This isn’t fair on the Youtubers’ themselves, nor is it fair for the viewer of the videos! I hope you see this FTC and reconsider..

If my video posted on my channel contains cartoon/drawn characters fighting, bleeding, etc. Does that still count as children's content?

And, if my video has a cartoon character swearing or talking about something that may be inappropriate to children, does that still count as children's content?

Thank you, I hope this new law doesn't put many content creators at risk.

Please provide a clear description of the COPPA guidelines, they are too broad and too general.

Everything is too vague, the "The Rule sets out additional factors the FTC will consider in determining whether your content is child-directed" is to vague.

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

So, how does this address those who craft for adults? You didn't address that in your examples. Will a crafter be safe from COPPA if their content is clearly directed toward adults?

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

This is too broad of a stroke I am an adult and more than half of the media listed by you to be geared towards children apeals to me as the context of the orignal writing of this law was made during the age where I was a child I have grown since and my tastes and manner of speach have remained please reconsider how this law is meant to be enforced, as although I am an artist myself and make works that appeal to all ages. If a user states they are above the age of 13 then the adult responsible should be held responsible for it if they are committing perjury.

I want to animate content to upload on YouTube. I don't want to advertise this content, I just want to upload for everyone to watch, and I have some questions about how this will affect me:
1. I don't want to advertise my content, so how would I mark my channel if it's "Kid Friendly" or not?

2. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVZsbE4E68w) This video shows what will happen to animation content if they want to not be marked "Kid
Friendly" I don't want to do this, so how would this be applied to the content I want to upload?

3. I don't have the money to pay a fine of up to $42,530 nor do I have the ability to pay for a lawyer if the fine is taken to court. What would I do
then (if this were to happen)?

4. How would not advertising my content affect my choice of being "Kid Friendly" or not/ getting fined?

I would appreciate it if I could get a response soon, so I would know what to do about the animated content I want to upload. I would also appreciate it if it was explained how not advertising my content would also affect me (The chance of getting fined, and how I would mark my content on the platform)?

Please make YouTube better by helping out YouTubers who break the law without knowing they did and please look at channel that are kid friendly and see if they are really kid friendly and please make sure to help tell parents that they should watch what are the kids are doing in the internet.

Please understand that it is the parents job to watch what their kid is watching, it is not your job or YouTube's job.

The COPPA rule in it's current form is not specific enough in its definition of what constitutes programming directed to children. My specific concern is that owners of channels that teach the making of and display hand made journals and books seem to fall into a huge crack. The journals and books and the images that fill them may in fact be bright, cheerful, colorful and include Disney and Disney-ish pictures, but the content is specifically directed at adults who have the skills and wisdom to use the tools required to produce these journals and books. I'm sure people involved in other creative hobbies could tell a similar story. Please do not enact COPPA as it is currently written.

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

please stop replying with something we've already read

I have read the new standers you are putting on YouTube content creators is not right when it comes to Anima, because lumping all animation together is not correct. Yes a lot of animation is for kids, but most is ment for people ages 16 and up. I understand that a large majority of the people that work for the F.T.C. do not watch or understand anima, but you should do some due diligence and research the differences in all types of anima.

PLEASE! Most of us create content for a mixed-up audience. Put a "Directed to mixed-up audience" category on Youtube. It would be simple for all of us. PLEASE!

the only thing COPPA will do for children is get rid of videos directed towards them. with the huge losses that a creator takes from making a video for kids, no one will want to do it. The terms are also way too vague and don't express clearly what is and isn't for kids

I understand why this law was considered, but there is something people need to understand. YouTube is not a free TV service, It's a platform where individuals can share their creations to the world and see the reactions of others to said creations. Recently, people have been uploading full episodes of children's cartoons and other "kid-friendly" content in order to manipulate YouTube's algorithm and make a profit off of it. Parents are now under the assumption that all of YouTube should follow in these channels footsteps. This is not the case. YouTube should not be used by very young children and people need to understand that it is not a platform to watch television programs on.

Creators should not be punished for parents not supervising their children. These laws are too vague and should be revised. You tube is collecting data...not the makers...figure this out.

As a viewer of YouTube, and as a Mother and Grandmother I know that Children are naturally inquisitive about everything, so how would a creator ever be able to make a video about anything without a child wanting to watch it! And what YouTube and Google did was not the fault of the Video Creators, YouTube and Google were the ones collecting IP Address's or names and personal information, they were the one's running the website, just like they have collected all personal data on everyone that has ever crossed their internet path. I ask that you please look to a different solution, such as the parents allowing the children to use their devices and accessing YouTube only under a child's login account.

What kind of music would be specifically could be directed to kids?

i know that this is just to protect kids, but whatever law you make, it will always be parents and community that make them safe from any content. go to places where crime can be seen by kids and thought that its just normal. do youtube content have something to do with what they will acquire? there is youtube kids that my son use and its enough son to view appropriate content. even normal tv channels will show lots of appealing to kids advertisements, how would they comply with this vague law?

how do a youtube channel get report to ftc ?

What if my my channel is neutral like anyone can watch it but it sometimes not made for kids since sometimes i put like people shooting like first person shooting games am I still violating it

FTC... You are not answering a single comment or question here, so why have a comment section? My content is not "MADE FOR" kids, but is perfectly appropriate for them to view. YOU HAVE NO ANSWER TO THIS SCENARIO.

It seems a bit excessive. Maybe just disable info gathering on YouTube without penalizing content creators.

oh come on, not even animators are safe? hol up, idea, just post some inappropriate animated content and see if they mark that as "for kids"

This is killing YouTube! Please stop this. This is nonsense. So many you tubers are going to loose their jobs. This is not YouTube’s fault, because you aren’t even allowed to have a YouTube account under the age of 13. It is the parents that are supposed to watch their kids watching stuff on YouTube, not YouTube babysitting the children. Please stop this COPPA thing and let us enjoy YouTube with how it was and how everyone enjoyed it.

Easy fix! Just don't allow YouTube and Google to collect information! How difficult is that? This is more confusing and bureaucratic nonsense. With idiotic rules and regulations we are creeping ever more closely to the precipice of totalitarianism.

It's time for parents to step up to the plate and monitor the content their child is watching. It is not up to the rest of us to do that!

So YouTube breaks the rules and then try their best to figure out a way to 'Not Pay' content creators... Gotcha
Nothing like making everybody pay when you get caught with your corporate hand in the cookie jar.

Here's an idea, just have Youtube allow us to tick a box that says "Not for kids" or "PG-13" or "Rated T for Teen" or "Not intentionally aimed at kids". Simple. There are a gazillion websites that do this. A simple on/off switch that instead of saying "On/Off" are saying "for kids/not for kids".

while i am not a Youtube creator, but i actually understand and enjoyed so many contents on Youtube. FTC’s COPPA law just too vague, too harsh, and too wrong for everyone even for children and creator alike for so many reason!!!!! Let’s me tell you okay?
1. Even FTC and COPPA try to protect children’s privacy, this just too much discrimination on the grounds of a people's age. Also nowadays Children don’t want to be underestimated just because they are underage.
2. Most YouTube Creators wouldn't be Able to Continue what they do Best. because of civil penalties of up to $42,530 per violation video.
3. There's YouTube creators who expect to hear Comments on their Videos. also every creators know they never wanted to get children’s personal informations.
4. Videos are used as Source Material for Many Things.
5. YouTube Videos are Made for so many People giving their Thoughts on and more. and please understand that every youtubers are different.
6. YouTube is not just Place for Watching just about Anything, but also Place for Watching Livestreams, Entertainments, Animations, Stories, Musics, How to do stuff, Clips of Stuff, Segments and Sketches of Stuff, Reaction Videos, Social Media, and so many of Good stuffs Creators still can do. especially we all know what Social Media's all about, and FTC and COPPA Please understand.
7. There's Trillions of Videos and Channels out there that've been Glad to have Around and really Glad to be in Youtube. especially now Worldwide Companies have Their own Official channel. So if their channel are taken down just because they aren’t kid friendly, That would cause irreparable damage instead.
8. Friendly Stuff is The Most Common and Most Loved Thing to have in the World enjoyed by everyone.
9. YouTube Videos that talk about the History of Things and that Educate People are very Important. They gained so much wisdom and enlightenment from Youtube.
If FTC and COPPA law try to remove comments, family friendly contents, likes, dislikes, and mores, They would not just seriously damaging the community itself, but also jobs, people’s Hope and dream, and at worst humanity itself!!!!!. This is why countless Youtubers are traumatized and feared about this law. I Hope FTC can understand all this.

CAN YOU JUST CANCEL THIS????? YOUNG 13 YEAR OLDS ARE GONING TO BE FINED

ooh this may be good news

Would videos about robots that aren't geared towards kids covered by Coppa or am I safe?

What happens if you are a kid and are a creator because I’m on tablet and I can’t make my audience set or upload videos

So basically, goodbye YouTube. Cant wait to protest.

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