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

Can videos that are about games like Minecraft, Terraria and other games that appeals to all ages be marked as not made for kids?

Please don’t do this to YouTube this will hurt every content creator and their channels this is something that they love to do which is their job and their life especially the videos we all like to watch don’t take them down that’s why there’s YouTube kids that these younger viewers can watch leave YouTube the way it is!

The biggest issue is that the decision as to whether COPPA would apply to a video - such as a mature craft or hobby video - is ultimately subjective, by which time it would appear to be too late.
That makes it a BAD solution, because there is no clarity - no hard line. It is wrong to have laws that can massively fine people when the law itself cannot provide sufficient clarity of definition for real day-to-day application by normal people.

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.

You people need to realize that a lot of the stuff you listed as "appealing to kids" is liked by adults too, not just some adults but wide swaths of the adult and young adult population! Learn about nerd, geek, animation, etc culture, just because of kids like it too DOES NOT MEAN IT IS FOR KIDS. Learn more about what you are regulating before you destroy not only an entire online community but the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people who make content related to pop culture and who aim their content AT ADULTS!

Please people who watch YouTube have to be 13 years old so please change the rules for YouTube

This is legally important that you listen to what our content creators have to say because millions are not very happy about the incoming changes to the platform. And a $42,000 fine is ridiculous because our content creators will be bankrupt and homeless.

Please take this into consideration and rethink this through, it's affecting our communities and the content creators who've been on the YouTube working very hard.

There has got to be a possible solution to improve these changes.

WHAT ABOUT SLIDE SHOWS I MAKE ABOUT JESUS?! AM I GOING TO BE FIND FOR IT?

Are Horror Games Like Five Nights At Freddy's Or Gaming In General Directed Towards Kids? What About Music? Please Clarify This.

Can't YouTube just ask for an account sign in with an age selection and block the features for -13 so everyone is left alone and happy

As we said, it's a parent's fault too because they don't care about his child and let them watch any video. So, we can't fault all YouTuber Creator because some of the videos are appropriate for kids. But, some gaming videos like puzzle block, cooking simulator, Minecraft, etc. Video gaming still is appropriate for kids under 13 years old.

We can't blame all YouTube Creator. Give a chance to all YouTube Creator.

Question: What's are YouTube Kids Made for.

Question: Do we get fined if we violating COPPA Rules.

Question: How the COPPA Works?

Question: Why w

I make animations on YouTube. It’s kid-friendly, but it’s for a vast audience. If I put a disclaimer at the beginning that the video isn’t made for kids, will I be safe?

The Guidelines are rubbish. If you’re going to implement guidelines that have harsh consequences the rules should be black and white. They should be very clear. This is very vague

I really think if kids under 13 are watching videos, maybe their parents should monitor it? It just seems like it's absurd that you can get charged if the FTC thinks your video isn't this or that, but you thought it was or wasn't? Hopefully, warnings will be given first if it violates because many of us aren't sure.

Like, I make lyric videos and believe they shouldn't really be aimed at kids, but maybe Harry Styles could???? It's all very vague and when this goes into effect, you guys should make sure that you warn those who are violating so they can change it because we all think differently...

Cant there just be a "general audience" button? It would really help creators.

Can we just not have this coppa stuff? Just let the creators be free and let parents be parents, fine the parents imagine how much money u could make then.

As a young content creator, I believe that creators who make content directed towards kids and live of adsense, will be forced to make adult content or quit YouTube all together. As a result of this, there is going to be more content on YouTube that is directed for adults and teenagers. However, kids are still going to watch YouTube. Its not the content creators fault that children's parents allow them to watch their favorite videos.

This has no detail, its hard to undeeatand what each rule even means. p

I think the best option would simply be to allow parents to give explicit permission for YouTube to use their children's data from YouTube. It is the parent's responsibility to protect children online, not content creators, YouTube themself, or even the FTC. Thank you for taking this message into consideration and I hope it makes an impact.

Okay, since we found out you’re actually supporting videos for the general audience, YouTube is going AGAINST that notion. They are instead forcing us to have two selections: “Kid” and “Adult” resulting in having a lose-lose situation. You guys gotta do something about it before this happens.

These rules are vague and don't make sense. Where would Love Nikki (a dress up app many adults and teens play) fall? It'd definitely not a children's game. Will I be fined for marking my content as not for children, despite the game falling under the dress up category? Please be more clear or make an E for everyone category. Something content creators can mark if they make content for both adults and children. Also youtube is the one collecting data on its viewers. Not the content creators.

PLEASE consider other viewers who depend on videos to enhance their hobbies and income. I am a pensioner and cannot afford to attend classes. Plus, I live in South Africa so how on earth can I visit classes overseas?!

Watching TV is much more harmful than YouTube videos!

Pls don’t take this rule if you want money get it from parents not us

This is too vague and this is basically all the entertainment of youtube your saying is wrong. I can't believe some of you dont watch or understand youtube and are making a law that will kill all GOOD, ORIGINAL AND LIVELY CONTENT on youtube. Please, this is too aggressive. I myself is an animator and this is scaring me from doing what i love. Because it appeals to children. Anything appeals from kids that's why we have different jobs and why we are diverse. Because there is watchable stuff for all of us. PLEASE RECONSIDER THE DAMAGE YOU ARE DOING TO THIS PLATFORM.

Is content from other countries affected aswell? ( ex. Philippines )

Foreign-based websites and online services must comply with COPPA if they are directed to children in the United States, or if they knowingly collect personal information from children in the U.S. The law’s definition of “operator” includes foreign-based websites and online services that are involved in commerce in the United States or its territories.

U.S.-based sites and services that collect information from foreign children also are subject to COPPA. See COPPA FAQS B.7. https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/complying-coppa-frequently-asked-questions

hi im a 23 year old adult who has been watching youtube from the beginning. these new laws could kill THOUSANDS of jobs and could put some people into poverty. also the rules are way to vauge and undescriptive. please dont enact these laws it will hurt you rather than help. thanks for reading

My Channels are for Adults and children because my videos are not violent and not out of ordinary just an informations about what's going on in the world today especially when it's abnormal but natural ,thanks for understanding please when ever my video is out of children view let me know okay.and God almighty bless you all in Jesus christ name Amen.

Change your law because it to old for this era and the the era is new but the law 20 years old animation is sometimes for adult.

I thought Youtube was where people can make content about whatever they want but now COPPA is being stupid. :(

Do you know that youtube kids exist in the world.

My YouTube videos made for Adults! Not kids.

You don't know what you are doing to us if you pit the
COPPA rules and FTC we can't do any videos at all
Your going to ruin our internet culture please don't do this! You don't understand what will happen if you add those rules on youtube

Why are you doing this?You will destroy people's job.YouTube will be DONE.Don't you understand that you don't do anything except making it worse?It's not YouTube's fault,it's the parent's fault!THEY bought their children's phones,not YouTube.they aloud their children to do whatever they want! and you destroy YouTube. YouTube did nothing and you still destroy it till there is nothing left.You just want it all destroyed till there is no hope

Why boomers controls this please stop don't do it I want you keep Youtube normal

But what if our channel is "family friendly" YouTube either has options "for kids" Or "not for kids. " There is no "for all ages" Option.

If we just change this up a little bit, this would actually do very good. At its current state, however, this could backfire hard. If we want to keep kids content going, we need to give content creators revenue. Otherwise, they won't be able to make money, and will either shut down or start making more mature content. Kids will most certainly keep watching this, with won't be a win for either side.

How is it governments job to regulate what our children watch and consume on the internet? That should fall under the parents jurisdiction.

I believe a specific age range would help a lot here. I looked through the legal links provided and it seems all examples used were for ages 3-7, so a age range would be quite helpful in making this easier to understand.

(not legal advice so don't quote me on this I'm just a normal dude this is not legal advice) It seems to be if It could air on nick jr or playhouse disney. it's probably coverd by COPPA.

good thing i don't plan to make that type of content.

Can Age Of 13 Or Above Can Run YouTube channels?? Pls confirm

YouTube has so many people making videos for a living. Does taking away innocent people's jobs sound okay to you? These innocent people will go into debt because of this. This is not okay.

As much as this tries to clear things up. It is still very vague. What about toy reviews that are aimed at an adult or older audience. These videos aren't or rather, the products/toys in the videos are not aimed at children, nor would children buy them. They even say on the box these products aren't for children ages 15 and under. Also for cartoons, what about anime? Anime isn't always aimed at children.

YouTube has so many people making videos for a living. Does taking away innocent people's jobs sound okay to you? These innocent people will go into debt because of this. This is not okay.

The language that defines content that falls under "Child Friendly" is far from specific enough and gives a massive grey area to whether a video is friendly or not, depending on the content. Lawmakers need to research the current state of social media and YouTube's platform to better understand how the current language of the law is causing mass panic and is not properly applying to the creators on the platform. Also, YouTube's "Terms of Service" does not allow anyone under the age of 13 to sign-up for the site, so how does this law apply to the individual creators in the first place?

Why is this being done like this, surely there are channels who abuse of their audience demographic but some who are just trying to make a living, this should be put upon the parents not you. Take out COPPA otherwise the consequences will show up

What if a kid is a youtuber and their content is not directed to children

Please Consider to change these rules as most of the youtubers make a living on this youtube platform only. And mention exactly what type of videos will come under made for kids category.

I don’t think the FTC knows that YouTube was never meant for kids because if you go App Store or google play, you’ll see it’s not meant for kids. There’s a thing called YouTube kids, a YouTube for kids. And it’s not YouTube’s fault that they are watching this stuff, it’s the parents fault because they should pay better attention to their children. So this coppa thing is really stupid and it cannot pass. This will wipe out 90% percent of content creators on YouTube. FTC, if you’re reading this, please get rid of this, it’s stupid!

"Appealing to children" could literally mean anything, Also I see no reason why YouTube can't just keep the site age restricted for Children of or below a certain age, it seems harsh punishing of age content creators for violations others have enacted. Please keep family friendly platforms like YouTube Kids as an alternative to punishing millions of YouTube content creators as this decision will also massively devastate YouTubes ability to profit and gain revenue from a slew of demographics above the age of 18.

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