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

Other people's children are not our responsibility. It's their parents responsibility. This is absolutely pathetic. This policy will destroy youtube because no one will upload for fear of violating your vague policies and getting fined thousands for doing absolutely nothing wrong.

The definition for what counts as children's content are too general and cover content that are also adult directed or meant for everybody. Furthermore, content creators do not collect data on children, Google and YouTube do.

We know that the COPPA protects little kids, but this will KILL YouTube and it's creators. Please don't do this. People only upload for fun like me, I don't want to get fined for uploading a simple Minecraft video.

I think that this is unfair for us content creators, I think instead of this rule parents should block youtube for the kids and let then use youtube kids on their own if they don't want their kid watching stuff like ours. Just my opinion of course, but I do this for fun and this would totally reck it...

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.

Can you please just try to figure out how to make it so parents are more responsible about what they let their kids watch? Don't leave it to the youtubers. Leave it to the parents.

This is absolutely unwarranted. Content creators should not have to pay for the irresponsible actions of parents. It is the parents that must be responsible and proactive on what their children consume.

You can’t do this to creators, it’s not our fault. The fine for over 42k is way to much on creators. That’s going to make things much worse. Get rid of that fine, this is youtubes fault. The Creators has nothing to do with what YouTube did. Are you guys working with YouTube to make such a high fine for our FREEDOM OF SPEECH? Back off from creators. It’s not our fault. We don’t need to pay fees over something we enjoy doing. It’s not our fault that videos can be targeted to kids, the system will get so many wrong and so much more. Please just don’t do this. YouTube has YouTube Kids, they can promote it so much better. Please don’t do this to us.

You know if the account is under 13 you could just not allow them to make a account and make it so a timer starts and when they get 13 they are aloud to retry to make a account and in the meantime they can use YouTube kids, I think the kid should still subscribe and the maker gets money but the account should not comment or make videos there selves, also the person who uploaded just can’t do any giveaways. That way it will be more fair sence things are sometimes not only for kids.

So You Tube and the Advertisers are the ones making money off of the collection of information and data on the videos. The Creators have no control over nor access to the collection of said data. The only way for you Tube and the Advertisers to make the revenue is from content the Creators publish. The Creators make very little, if any, from You Tube and none (I believe) from the Advertisers. So how is it that somehow the entire responsibility for this whole situation falls onto the video Creators? It should be sorted out, fixed, and complied with from You Tube itself and, I might add, Parental consent or non-consent and responsibility.

I just play guitar Instrumentals {:-0

I make videos about carnivorous plants, and sometimes videos that are completely random and have no reason to exist, though I do have a gaming channel, I plan on merging the two, so can I make Pokémon videos, or no? Gameplay and that, also if I mark the video not for kids, does it get age restricted?

I am very confused on the matter

So say I make a video for kids and I don’t say if it is or not, do I have to pay a fine, or does YouTube?

I need answers

This rule should be more cleared and what what about the videos in which things related to middle school is aimed upon? Though the rule is disheartening and might ruin many honest people

Where does anime fall in becuase I'm pretty sure it isnt for kids

While I completely understand the attention to the welfare towards children and what they should not be seeing online, this doesn’t stop any child from just watching content aimed at a older demographic. A kid is going to watch what a kid wants to watch, regardless of the amount of regulation put up.

If a video is using plushies/puppets does that mean it's considered "directed at kids? Also by subject matter does it mean if I make a video about school it's directed at kids? Please explain

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.

You WILL NOT get away with this. You could ruin so many lives from this rule. I am determined to not let this happen. You will fix this. This is no laughing matter. Please, I’m begging you, for so many peoples sake. Don’t do this. Please, please, please. Don’t do this, please.

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 。

Why, you took everything from me, us, all of us, we can’t do anything now?!? No vibrant colors, no talking about stories, we basically have to watch GREY BLOCKS TALKING ABOUT HEALTH INSURANCE. You’ve taken this to far, when 2020 comes, family’s will be DESTROYED, business... WIPED, all because of you, you’re taking everybody’s money away just because of some dumb 80’s safety issue. COPPA, FTC, if you can see this please bring back the YouTube we love.

i don't like that the FTC targets individual Channels. that means that small channels with no Income will be wiped as soon as they do something that the FTC don't like

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..

This rule needs heavy revision. The rules of this policy have to absolutely CRYSTAL CLEAR. Enacting this new COPPA policy will push creators into such a gray area that nearly all of their content is going to stagnate and become mediocre, it will make content either "too adult" or "too kid friendly" resulting in unfair punishment on the creator's part and potentially destroy their channel altogether, creators cannot keep up with being pushed from both sides of the content spectrum. All of these new rules need to be explicit, as to not let the creators make mistakes that could harm their channel. Parents need to be responsible for what their kids watch, not YouTube and not creators, as long as the content is not maliciously targeting children. I propose parental control capabilities on the platform and less content restriction on the creators part.

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.

This system will not work, it will not make kids safer or kids content more child friendly by the regulation of targetted ads you will drive out the profitability of child entertainment altogether. When all of the content creators have switch to more mature content, kids will still be coming to YouTube. And when they do they can and will encounter inappropriate content.This is not a problem to be fixed by government regulation it is a problem to be fixed by proper parenting.

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)?

The law states that it is about children being the browser, and interacting with the device. Some children’s content will be accessed by the parent, so surely there is no breach of COPPA in those cases. This is not about what children are watching, it is about who is clicking on the the thumbnail. Creators need to be able to submit empirical evidence, so they can have assurance that they are not breaching COPPA.

What happened to the first amendment?

My daughter has been working hard on her videos and she wants to keep working on them over the years.

So why do you have to take 90 percent of the creator's revenue if its directed to kids

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.

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