$170 million FTC-NY YouTube settlement offers COPPA compliance tips for platforms and providers

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Had you asked yesterday, we would have said the largest financial remedy for violations of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act Rule was $5.7 million. Today’s $170 million total monetary judgment against YouTube and its parent company Google raises the stakes when it comes to COPPA compliance. Filed jointly with the New York Attorney General’s Office, the record-breaking FTC settlement offers three primary takeaways for other companies.

What Google said about YouTubeHow popular is YouTube with children under 13? The answer YouTube gave depended on who was asking. When pitching its platform to companies selling kid-related products, YouTube described itself as “today’s leader in reaching children age 6-11 against top TV channels” and “the #1 source where children discover new toys + games.” YouTube also touted that it “was unanimously voted as the favorite website for kids 2-12” and that “93% of tweens visit YouTube to watch videos.” Many parents wouldn’t be surprised by that description.

But when an advertiser raised the issue of COPPA, a Google employee said this: “[W]e don’t have users that are below 13 on YouTube and platform/site is general audience, so there is no channel/content that is child-directed and no COPPA compliance is needed.” That statement would likely raise parental eyebrows. And it gets to the heart of where the FTC and the New York AG say YouTube violated COPPA.

Individuals and businesses that upload videos to YouTube can create channels to display their content. Of course, companies want viewers to watch what they’ve uploaded, but YouTube offers another way for businesses to make money through their channels. By default, YouTube enables behavioral advertising (also known as targeted advertising) on monetized channels. That means YouTube collects information about viewers of content in the form of persistent identifiers – for example, cookies that allow YouTube to track viewers over time and across websites – and uses that data to serve them tailored ads. The channel owner makes money from the advertiser and so does YouTube.

YouTube used that money-making model across its platform. That included channels geared to a general audience, but also channels YouTube knew were geared toward kids under 13. How did YouTube know? In some instances, channel owners told YouTube their content was directed to children. In other cases, YouTube’s own rating system identified content as kid-directed. And yet even with that knowledge, YouTube used persistent identifiers on channels directed to children – identifiers that allowed YouTube to track kids online, deliver them targeted ads, and make millions in the process.

Beginning in January 2016, YouTube offered channel owners the option to disable behavioral advertising and instead use contextual ads, a less precise method of anticipating ads to which a viewer might respond. But YouTube cautioned channel owners that turning off behavioral ads “may significantly reduce [the] channel’s revenue.” The unspoken concern was that it also would reduce how much money YouTube would make.

Congress enacted COPPA to make it clear that parents – not marketers – are in charge when it comes to whether companies can collect information from kids online. The FTC and the New York AG allege that YouTube’s behind-the-scenes conduct violated three key COPPA provisions.

First, under the COPPA Rule, a child-directed website or online service – or a site that has actual knowledge it’s collecting or maintaining personal information from a child – must give clear notice on its site of “what information it collects from children, how it uses such information, and its disclosure practices for such information.” Second, the site or service must give direct notice to parents of their practices “with regard to the collection, use, or disclosure of personal information from children.” Third, before collecting personal information from kids under 13, COPPA-covered companies must get verifiable parental consent. COPPA’s definition of “personal information” specifically includes persistent identifiers used for behavioral advertising. Importantly, third-party platforms are subject to COPPA when they have actual knowledge they’re collecting personal information from users of a kid-directed site. Therefore, the complaint charges that YouTube knew certain channels on its platform were directed to children and yet tracked visitors to those sites without disclosing that practice and without getting parents’ verifiable consent.

YouTube changes as a result of caseIn addition to the $170 million judgment – which goes to the U.S. Treasury and the State of New York – the proposed settlement requires YouTube and parent company Google to notify channel owners that their child-directed content may be subject to the COPPA Rule. YouTube and Google also must implement and maintain a system that lets channel owners identify content as child-directed so YouTube can ensure it’s complying with COPPA. In addition, YouTube and Google must provide annual COPPA compliance training for employees who deal with channel owners.

What tips can other companies take from the settlement?

Content creators need to be conversant with COPPA. Do you upload child-directed content to platforms like YouTube for commercial purposes? The COPPA Rule may apply if you allow the collection of personal information from viewers of your content. That includes the collection of persistent identifiers used for behavioral advertising.

A warning to platforms: Actual knowledge that content is kid-directed kicks in COPPA obligations. If a platform hosting third-party content knows that content is directed to children, it’s illegal to collect personal information from viewers without getting verifiable parental consent.

Like real estate, a website can be “mixed use.” It’s fine for most commercial sites geared to a general audience to include a corner for kids. But if that part of your site collects information from users, you now have obligations under COPPA.

Check the Business Center’s COPPA portal for compliance resources.
 

Comments

This is stupid

i agree it is so many youtubers are going to be affected even after this kids are going to get into content no matter what rather this inforces the rules or not my queston is i want to start a new youtube channel family friendly contant should i be worried

You stated gaming and animations are "kid friendly content". What if the content creator is targeting a more mature audience? Arguably, kids refers to those ages 12 and below. Teens would then be above 12.

A great example is the streamer Ninja. He plays Fortnite which is arguably targeting a younger audience. However, he is known for using more mature words. Is he still kid friendly?

Another example is Markiplier. He makes gaming content, but often uses more mature language. Swearing in a lot of videos, this is obviously not kid friendly. However, he plays games; has "bright colours" and "animations". He plays horror games rated for teens.

How about anime YouTubers? Anime is largely aimed at teenagers, not kids. Yes, there are exceptions for these anime, but on the surface, its still an animation. Some of these animes feature horror, gore, and/or erotic scenes. These are not meant for kids.

Youtube has made a setting for content creators to signify whether their content was targeting kids or not. By clicking "no, not kid friendly" they are clearly stating they are not making kid friendly content. Your vague rules of what "child friendly content" is, is going to ruin many of these channels on YouTube. These content creators have built massive communities from the ground up, and depend on YouTube to make a living. Saying you are going to punish for such a stupid thing, is like saying them losing their jobs is ok.

This seems unfair in so many ways, the responsability of monitoring a child's web usage is that of the parent(s)/guardian(s), it should not be the content creator, not only that, youtube has a kid's app...so...yeah. And the fine seems absolutly ridiculous, and it's per video.

I think everyone deserves a better outcome, because it just seems like a lot of content creators will just vanish or not make as much content due to the mistake of another entity.
This should be looked into with a much more keen eye, and with someone that ACTUALLY understands what other human beings like, how these platforms work, and the real problem (which in my opinion, as i implied -> bad parenting).

I get that this is serious, but I do not understand how adults can not tell the difference between children content and mature content. This is why YouTube kids was created.

What y’all are doing to YouTube makes no sense because of one website that already dose this. YouTube Kids

Big Brother is Watching

Do you even realize what your doing? So what you're saying is say I make a video on how to kill something. I then intend for the video to be 13 and up. Then say kids watch it, does this mean I'm wrong? How does this all make sense. FTC, please think of what your doing. I know YouTube made a mistake, but you shouldn't punish content creators like this.

Please read the FTC's November 22 blog, which explains that: 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.

This is a very bad idea, you may think that helping this kids is a good idea. With these regulations you would be destroying peoples entire lives. Sure i get it, people shouldn't be targeting kids with subjective ads. But with this any i mean ANY single video being fined by your system can make some one completely gone in self worth. Do this Beautiful youtube community a favor, and give a proper set of guide lines. Or at least let someone who actually has experienced loss like the youtubers will face take control. This is not a good idea... I speak for the many people on the youtube platform, don't ruin the thing we've grown so close to.
Don't destroy what people have spent their entire lives building.
With professionalism and optimism you can find a more effective way.

YouTube has become a minefield for content creators due to past events and regulations. However, what COPPA and the FTC are proposing turns this minefield into a nuclear wasteland, excuse the extreme language.

Categorizing content on YouTube as exclusively catered to adult of child audiences in a near impossible task. Many content creators fall in between, some use child-like forms of content to extend a mature message, and some can be misidentified as one when truly being the other.

With this misinformation and concrete and strict guidelines, YouTube may as well not be a paying job. With how forceful and broad some of the guidelines are, it will be impossible to navigate through.

Another point of interest, this SHOULD fall upon the adult guardian or parent of a child to enforce what they are allowed to watch and create. YouTube is not a child day care center.

With how many comments are being presented to the FTC and COPPA, it is very clear this needs to change before the lives of nearly EVERY creator on Youtube crumble under the weight of these new acts.

I hope to receive a proper reply instead of merely a link to other parts of the website.

Thank you,

Hello there , and I understand what you are trying to do for YouTube but what you are about to do could destroy Thousands if not millions of people’s jobs. I’m going to be using the animation community as an example. A while ago there were hardly any storytime Animation communities or creators. And they are making a comeback but they don’t post often because it takes him a long time to draw in animate every frame of one of the Animation. And I’ve read all of your documents and it states that any channel using a a character or an animated cartoon character is violated as to kid friendly and attracts kids to easy and will be taken down and find $42,000 per video for 600 of the videos. In my opinion that is not right. This individuals have worked very hard to get to where they are and they’ve created lovable cartoon characters and stories for all ages. I understand you’re trying to make the platform like so it doesn’t draw kids as much but if you did that you would obliterate a lot of people and their jobs and you could rip apart families. Say that a family has been posting videos for four years and then all of a sudden they get find a lot of money. That might put them out of a home out of a job it may be much worse. Please reconsider your options and examine some of the channels you would destroy. Thank you.

I feel this set of laws made are easy to abuse due to how vague they are. What you should do is hire a staff of people who are fully aware of what YouTube is truly meant to be in order to monitor it properly. Do not let people who are stuck in the past monitor it because if this happens, it could be abused and potentially ruin the welfare of many content creators, if not ruin their lives entirely due to someone not understanding that some content, while appearing kid-friendly, truly isn't. I do NOT want COPPA removed, it IS a good thing. The problem, as mentioned earlier, is how vague it is. It makes it nearly impossible to determine what content is safe to use and what is likely to get us creators fined. So I will request this one more time, please hire a group that is fully aware of the YouTube platform as a whole so that you can get the true troublemakers of YouTube and not remove some of YouTube's greatest content creators and ruin the dreams of many new and upcoming content creators such as myself due to misunderstandings.

I really appreciate what the US government is doing to keep our kids and teenagers safe but I have some concerns to address, that might be of use to you.

First and foremost As a young adult male, I believe that the COPPA law is far too out of date. What I mean by that is that Kid, teens and young adult content all affect one another. Today's culture is mostly made up by teenagers and kids(especially any video game, animations, and musical content) if you would like to have a better understanding of the culture, I think you should ask teenagers all over social media what they think should be rated as kid-friendly or not; I believe that we all could come together and find a way to make the COPPA law more modern; for generations to come. I also think that as a consumer and Creator of content on the social media platform "Youtube " that we could have more leeway on the platform to keep the platform fun and enjoyable(as well as safe) for everyone.

I also would like more information and guidance to be given to all content creators on the platform so that we all can abide by the law to the fullest extent as well as a few(3 at least) warning signs before legal action is taken. This will allow the content creators time to check and correct there mistakes furthermore fixing the problem. I am sure that we all (with time )could make the Internet a better place for everyone to enjoy!

Please stop COPPA. it's a fatal frustration for animator yotuber. COPPA not only cut no ice to protect teens,but make half of yotuber Ⅰost their source of income.

This law is made too quickly and will not help children in the way the FTC and COPPA thinks it will. This will discourage creators from creating kids friendly content. Most creators on YouTube rely on add revenue and their communities to make a living. By stopping targeted adds creators will lose up to 90% of their income. Targeted adds do collect information from people. That is the main purpose of them, but if kids information is being collected that is not YouTube's or the FTC's fault. That is the fault of the parents who are allowing their children to watch YouTube and have their own accounts. The parents should be responsible for what their child watches not YouTube or the FTC or the creators creating the content. Children under the age of 13 should not be on YouTube. YouTube is a PG-13 website and if parents are letting their children, who are the under the age of 13, watch YouTube that is the parents problem. It is not the problem of YouTube creators or of the FTC. If kids under the age of 13 want to watch YouTube that is what YouTube Kids is for. The good creators of YouTube who are creating content to appeal to a large audience should not have to worry about if their content will cause them to be fined up to $42,000 dollars. If the FTC and YouTube are trying to stop the collection of kids information then they should be targeting the main problem, the parents who are allowing their children, who are under the age of 13, to watch YouTube. It is not the problem of the creators of YouTube to monitor what children watch. It is not the problem of YouTube its self or the FTC to monitor what kids watch. It is the problem of the parents raising the children. Yes, I understand that this problem is about the collection of children's information, but by having creators label their videos as "appealing to children" and by labeling them so, in turn, blocking most of the money they make by posting that content will not help anything. This new law will discourage creators from making family friendly content. It will make YouTube a more dangerous site for kids under the age of 13, who should not be on the site in the first place. It will stop creators from making content that is fun and exciting. This content is appealing to kids and this content will be less common, as losing up to 90% of the money creator make by creating this content will be lost as will the appeal of making such content. By marking their content as "child friendly" it will limit the viewers creators will gain ,who watch such content, to only children. This new law will not make YouTube any safer for children. It was made hastily, worded vaguely, and will only cause problems for creators and YouTube in the long run.

this will be the end of every one. beginners like me can just get a fine of 42.000 dollars while we only have reached 1200 subscribers or more.

Please read the FTC blog of November 22 which explains that while the Rule allows for civil penalties of up to $42,530 per violation, 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.

It's a good idea but the things you say that are "kids things" are kinda stupid, like video game what if there's guns or a its 13+ game will we still have to pay 42 thousand dollars for that video??? FTC If you see this comment please reply to it.

Why don't we just treat Youtube like how we treat the movies.

Provide ratings content creators can use for their videos?

It's honestly the parent's responsibility in the first place. There shouldn't have been any legal action against youtube. We should have freedom of speech online.

Since some people aren't satisfied that parents should have responsibility for their own kids, then why don't we let YouTubers rate their videos for their intended audience.

From there, if the rating is wrong with complaints, then it can be reported. The number of complaints freezes the video and the content creator can either challenge the complaint or delete the video. Repeated offenses get the channel banned.

Almost like how it is now, except the content creators get to rate their stuff.

There shouldn't be any fines. The $42,000 dollar fine per offense per video is completely unrealistic. It's actually totalitarian. In real life you wouldn't fine an aerobics class because a child decided to join in. That's how this law looks to Youtube content creators because the language used to describe what would be fined isn't specific.

COPPA came out in the 90's. The internet has changed a lot since the 90's.

The freedom of speech should apply to the internet. It's where people go to communicate.

We can't stop kids from sneaking into an R rated film. We can't stop kids from clicking open an R-rated video.

We can warn parents of the content by supplying content creators with a rating system.

This is the only middle ground I see.

People who use this platform...
People can't be asked whether they are or are not making kids content because "Kids" is a general term.
I'll put it into perspective, a "kid" under thirteen living with a mother who is almost always drunk, and has no father, who are they to turn?
They've no friends to go to, scared to tell the school. So they seek solace in YouTube, a place where people can connect and interact with the use of videos. This kid is under thirteen, is using a fake age, and is therefore being collected on, but... how does YouTube stop that?
Is it YOUR call to decide whether or not the channels they watch should keep going or not?
YouTube is a place for people to provide entertainment, and information, but... if you take away people's ability to sustain the website itself with gray lines that say "kids can't watch this! He cursed." But right after that "That's too childish! Delete his channel and fine him forty two thousand dollars!" You're squeezing the lifeblood of people out of the site.
But I get it, you don't understand, see this as "youngins being mad about losin' their toys! Blah blah blah" but... it's not. You're just... not old enough to see, that the people younger than you, have adapted to their experiences, and environment, the world we live in... and you haven't. There have been too many laws made where the people making them, have no idea of the actual way the internet works.
This is just another one.

I would like to say what you are doing is not helping YouTube you are destroying people's lives for some YouTube is their only job and what you are doing is doing is hurting them putting in a kids friendly stuff is going to destroy YouTube fix this problem or thing will get worse

The collection of information from children is wrong. However, in order to collect this information Youtube requires the user to be signed in on a google acount, which requires you to be 13 years of age. Therefore, Youtube collects information from users that do not require to follow the COPPA rule, and children use divices shared by or given to by their parents; and parents should monitor their kids activity online. The information Youtube can collect without a google acount is gathered from device data, which most children under 13 watch content on their parents phone, meaning that they collect tainted information about the parent, not child. Youtube has a seperate platform directed at kids, Youtube kids. This is the only part of Youtube that requires the COPPA rule. If children lie about their age and own a google acount, it is their parents fault for not monitoring their kids. The government should not intervine with parenting, as many parents do it differently, and many monitor their childrens activity, or even share the device. If you truley want to eliminate the threat of companies collecting information from children, you should make guidlines as to what companies cannot collect as a whole, no matter how old you are, without consent. If you attempt to impose age resticted laws, companies will simply find a way to make their content not legaly targeted to children.

I am a mother of 16 and 14-year-old boys. A lot of the content that they are interested in on YouTube unfortunately it’s going to be impacted. The issue I have with this judgment and enforcement of COPPA is that the parameters are so wide that the content that created for teenagers will be missed labeled as content for children. This will leave a void in content suitable for teens. Unfortunately, because of the short notice and vague regulations content providers are not understanding what is expected of them and therefore may make errors that are very costly. Some of them will go out of business because of the loss of revenue or the fees associated with making the wrong decision and facing fines. When this happens my teenage boys will not go to the younger content but be drawn to the more adult content. I want them focused on content that is geared towards their age. I understand They will be exposed to adult content however YouTube is a PG-13 rated app. As a parent I understand that they may come a cross content for more mature audiences but that is my responsibility to monitor. If you want to protect children perhaps you should see on making sure YouTube does not have anything that’s above PG-13 on it instead of things labeled for children.

Not all things are kid things some adults like toys, games .etc. ok some adults like this stuff not just kid's. Ok (not being rude)

YOUTUBE HAS HAD ENOUGH JUST PUT IT ON GOOGLE NOT CONTENT CREATORS!!!!!!!!!!!

I have a small YT channel (about 650 subscribers and about 50 uploaded videos) that has video gaming, vlogs, and other content. NONE OF MY VIDEOS ARE MONETIZED. I do not want to make money from my videos, none of my videos have brought me revenue, I DO NOT MAKE A PENNY FROM MY VIDEOS. My question is, will my tiny channel be affected by this? Do I need to go through my videos to see if they are made for kids? And how will I know? I made gameplay videos years ago and I have no idea if they're considered "for kids". Will setting these videos to "private" still mean I have to determine if they're for children? If I determine them wrongly, do I get penalized and fined? I just really don't want to get into trouble.

ftc,
this new thing for youtube could cause some major issues. for starters, many content creators don’t direct their audiences towards children but rather to teens and up, which can have somethings that aren’t child friendly, but could still be something kids would want to watch. for example, a minecraft channel may draw kids in because they love to play the game, but some swear to an extent of not getting demonetized but still isn’t good for kids. this shouldn’t be something that is considered a “kid video/channel”. content creators shouldn’t have to change and alter their channels, which effects their normal living because ads are a lot of their income, because of people not complying with the rules. clearly some parents know that their children have accounts but they should know what their children are watching, that’s not under youtube’s control. they have the terms and services that people can choose to follow or follow falsely.
thank you for your time to put this into perspective.

I do see where this is headed. I understand this is for the greater good, but, tying to distinct a YouTube video as "Kid Friendly" is hard to do. "Yes or No" answers to the creator's "Is it kid friendly" isn't easy to do. A normal science video is most likely targeted for teachers or older adolescents. But a science video about Minecraft, well, it is targeted towards kids, but most likely not kids under 8. I would say that a wise decision is to say "Which age group is this video targeting." The reason is, 7 year olds watch different content than 12 or 13 year olds. So if they mis-judge it because they were off is like punishing a toddler because they used the wrong toy. I say this "Kid Friendly" idea is good, but they could have a help center for content creators to help them distinct "Is this aimed/targeted towards children?" This could ruin a person's life. They could've made video's because they were poor or low on money. So, I see where it is headed, but, could improve on helping content creators distinct if their video's are kid friendly.

I would like some clarification as to this, I am a content creator who only does this for fun and makes no money and has no ads what so ever, I wanna ask if I will still be fined for a mistake in my video section, even though the children that may or may not be watching my videos will not have their information taken from my videos as I have no advertisements, nor am I monetized. I could not be monetized even if I wanted to, because I am a very small time content creator. ii would not have to money to pay the fine, mainly because I make no money off of the content I make from this.

I'm not really sure about the first change YouTube is going to take (The one where we choose if our content is directed to children or not.) because what if we have some people with their abandoned accounts such as me ever since I got locked out of my old channel with content on it. It gets me worried because the channel is small and I do not have any form of currency and I might put my family in debt or in prison. It makes me panic every day and I hope that YouTube is aware of abandoned accounts not being able to set that setting.

This update will harm youtubers from all broad levels. Like for example, creators who rely on ad revenue which makes 60%--90% of their income. That would hurt them financially because they won't be able to pay rent, bills, and a plate of food on the table. The COPPA law is outdated and very vague. I suggest there can be some update to COPPA to make it not so vague.

I disagree with this ruling. There are many you tube channels such as those that have animals doing cute and funny things. Why should the folks who create this content be punished because that's what this will do. Parents can decide what their children can or cannot watch. More government intrusion in our lives

This new COPPA stuff is dumb. I get the reason as to why they are doing it, but this will leave many if not at least 85% of Youtube content creators out of a job. Please consider how badly COPPA might affect Youtubers and their families.

this is unfair to most people who have channels on youtube where people make a living with this movement several million people will be going bankrupt and it will take a big part out of the lives of young people

this is extremely unfair and needs to stop, peoples lives depend on their success on youtube, and I was soon going to pursue a career on youtube but then this came up and now I am afraid of getting charged $42000 and what if a family makes youtube videos and they have lets say 100 videos and they make videos and they mark as for kids but you guys think that its not for kids right? so they will get charged $4200000 that would destroy their lives and destroy businesses and peoples lives, anyway I think this needs to stop

Me and my sisters content isnt really aimed at kids od not, we have a gacha channel in wich we use a lot of songs with curse words but some of our content is kid frendly, but at the same time we use a lot of slightly mature content like how our OCs dad is an incubus and Octoru is burnt half to death but at the same time we use cute animated characters and made a fun cute video against COPPA I also think that the user should be classified as a kid or an adult plus if the parents are letting their kids watch YT regular instead of kids then the kid technically has the parents permission, plus its stupid that you are TEARING APART creators lives hereby cutting out MORE THAN HALF of their paycheck! Sorry if anyone misunderstood this comment as a hate comment, I have slight anger issues that I am working on -Silver

I have an idea instead of making videos for kids how about we mark users as kids and if they are under 13 YouTube will not have the right to track kids under 13

must a person be how old to comment on youtube but you cant so you comment on coppas website

They will find a way around it. Parents should be able to BLOCK it, plus and adult must put their email address there to consent to the child watching the programs.

Well, their goes my dream,
Once around 2014 i've been watching YouTube, wanting to become one, watching the climate change so I could join when a particular trend was rising, now I can't I was planning on uploading sports games like madden and the F1 game series, but now i cant really see the point in this anymore.
because I wanted it to be my career, and i wont be able to make money off what I enjoy doing and wanted to for years. I can understand why Coppa want a new agreement with you tube, but it should be affecting the people who run the site not the creators. I personally think that if I was to do what i planned to, i would be fined something that I have no hope if affording for uploading a sports game video so
thanks for ruining my high school dream FTC please change to agreement so people like me with small, growing channels who have no hope in paying have a chance to fulfill their dreams.
Regards,
A Youtuber who's dreams were crushed my COPPA

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