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 You Please Save My Youtube Channel? I Really Don’t Wanna Get Sued!

I do not like this new law in YouTube. Please reconsider that law!

So i don't think people should get fined,

This new rule doesn’t make much sense. It is also gonna ruin a lot of people’s careers too

Where do I click if my channel if it is for see for kids.

Please don't do this.

Please stop it. Your making a lot of people on YouTube Upset at you.

DON'T YOU DARE RUIN YT FOR US AND CHANNEL CREATORS

I'm still not sure if COPPA will cover my YouTube channel. I know that I make drawings and animations with characters but sometimes I draw them in different ways that feature more skin than clothes or hurt in a certain way.

Is my YouTube channel going to be covered?

please we cant have this because if we do then its going to probably have a big affect on youtube :(

These rules are clearly written by people who do not understand the internet and Youtube. They are short sighted and poorly defined. Please engage actual experts rather than guessing and hoping. No matter your intention, you are in essentially killing the career of a significant number of Youtube content creators.
Again, please, please, please engage actual experts rather than trying to guess and hope for the best.

I think you should put the blame on youtube and not on the youtubers

I think the new rule is unfair. The children going on youtube have there parents permission or maybe the parents should just pay more attention to there kids. The new rule will ruin many channels,lives, and the whole website. games like minecraft that might appeal to children will be taken down which is unfair. Story time animators will be gone to because they might mention a toy. Just because your guidelines are so tight it does not mean we should suffer and have are favorite channels taken away. Now the only stuff we could watch are math problems being solved because of these silly rules. Now stuff cant be two edgy and no way in heck can it be family friendly. These rules ruin youtube for everyone who is over thirteen and likes gaming or animation channels. I think this rule should be changed.

FTC: "Hello FTC, I'm a big youtuber's fan and some rulles about new Youtube politics can be prejudice some creators about pop culture... Like when they need to talk about
famous characters or cartoons... Not every content is destined for kids... Could you change this us?"

My son is 16 and autistic. He is in bits over this change. Utube is his gateway to socialisation ......his only way of comfortably communicating. He is devastated that many of his favourite utubers are no longer going to make videos and feel that his life is over. Before you go making changes think of the way this will affect people like my son who rely heavily on the internet. He literally cannot concentrate on anything but the potential negative outcome this change will impose on utube and the millions of utubers who use it. This is not a simple rule change to him and there is nothing i can say or do to help him. This change is affecting his school work and his entire life and although this may sound silly and stupid to most, until you have walked in his shoes and understand how the mind of someone affected with autism this really is life changing for him and not in a positive way.

Special care needs to be taken that video game-related content is not unfairly targeted. Just because someone is streaming a game intended for children does NOT mean the channel is made for or intended for children. Many adult YouTubers enjoy playing games from their childhood, but use adult humor and language. This does not make the channel content made for children.

I would like to say that, could you please make the rules more understandable and not so vague? Like for example, you have been saying that gaming content is directed towards kids, but it is not kids who watch it. Gaming content should not be labeled as kids content. It should be mature content.

There is literally a YouTube Kids app. That's where kids need to be going to watch videos that are directed to children. If parents, guardians, or caretakers allow children on the main YouTube website, they need to be responsible enough to monitor what those children are watching.
By potentially punishing YouTube content creators you would also punishing their audiences. I am a grandparent, and 99% of the channels I subscribe to are probably considered directed to children based on your definition.

In order to interact with YouTube videos you need an account. I just tried to set up a new YouTube account using the year 2009 for my birth year, and I was immediately denied. YouTube isn't intended for kids under 13. Please quit punishing the entire YouTube community for irresponsible parents, guardians, or caretakers.

It's not fair to all of the creators that earn a living on youtube. Where are all the family friendly content is going to go? If it's YouTube Kids, just please make a upload button. There are millions and millions going to quit. It's the parents fault of their kids are watching YouTube. Also, if your video have badwords, and animated characters, is it still family friendly? I don't want to go and pay 42k for just a family friendly video. Thank you.

_chainedsecrets_

Please it has to be for everyone it's not just for kids everyone's channels need something right we need to fix this all.

My problem with COPPA and YouTube is that not all videos that this law would count as made for kids may not be intended for children to watch. A video from a YouTuber who is at Disneyland, sees Disney characters, but goes around trying different alcoholic drinks could still be marked as made for kids because it had cartoon characters and colorful backgrounds in it. Please consider adding a general audience option as well. I understand COPPA is intended to protect kids but kids will watch whatever they can find on YouTube if parents are not being parents.

What if an animation has censored cursing- or blood, is it still for kids? And also- what about YouTube kids- it's the parents who need to watch their kids!

Something to understand, specifically referencing animation channels, is that sponsors are usually a very helpful way to discern whether a channel is geared towards kids. (Note: sponsers differ from adverts due to sponsers directly reaching out to the person(s) operating the channel and paying them to make a statement about a product they've been paid to endorse. Automatic ads provided by YouTube work differently. For more information on advertisements verses sponsers, contacting YouTube directly would be ideal.) For example, if a channel has a lot of color and is discussing something that would normally be considered "kid-oriented" has a VPN (network security) sponsers, it may be directed more towards a young adult audience. On the other, if a channel has a sponsor such as a mobile app on a video with a lot of child targeted content, it could be subject the new changes.

I am grateful FTC is reviewing the coppa law and hope its updated version will be easier for us the small business owners of our channels to implement.
Please consider the fact the law need to be updated so that getting parents cosent via email or site/platform signup is possible, such change will be easy for youtube to implement.

Many creators need the target ad revenue to have incentives to continue their program channels and 1 person operation should not be subjected to the same kind of punishment that is meant to dish out to a giant corperation.

Thank you FTC for showing creators precisely what is happening.

So if we mark our content as not for kids will we receive a penalty?

I understand that COPPA is going under affect and is used to protect children under the age of 13 but that's what YouTube Kids was made for and it protects children that can't make a Google account. YouTube its self is made for 13+ hense that's why you have to make a Google Account. I think COPPA is a bad idea because when a creator makes content they have to make thumbnail relating to their video hense most of the content on YouTube has got some sort cartoon character or celebrities or game affiliated with but the content is made for mainly young adults and kids of age 13+ with a parents permission. YouTube is a job and most of the content creators are make a living off of making videos and if the law goes into affect, people are at risk of losing millions of dollars and could potentially lose their jobs over not saying whether the videos they are intended for children or not. I feel like charging someone $42,000 per video, if they do not comply with this new law is a little bit excessive, because that's a YouTuber's yearly salary.

this is just a money grab put fines on content creators

I find the distinctions indistinct. If one says, It's not intended for children even if no salacious content is included, is one liable for fines if a child watches (for example) a show about animals and an animal is hurt, and a child watching this is upset? When are parents and guardians of children to be held responsible rather than the creato of a nature show. Is the shows creator held harmless if there is a disclaimer at the start? Maybe even newscast or news conference should begin with a like disclaimer as much of that content is incendiary, disingenuous, and vacuous. This is overreach.

Your going to make so many people homeless....your going to blame innocent people.... Your going sfter the wrong people...

Many peoples lives will be affected if you do this please reconsider

Yes, all my videos are for children also

Hello I don’t get if my channe is made for kids or not I read the rules but I don’t unsterdend them can y’all explain them please

You’re basically destroying YouTube which could make 25 million people go homeless, plus it’s not YouTubes fault because kids are watching YouTube It’s more of the parents fault For letting them use.It to please I tell you please stop this or else open the rules up so it’s not so strict.By the way you know your are making yourself look like a fool.So please stop this I know YouTube downloaded data on children but it was an accident.Remember this and really mean it every person makes a mistake, No matter how smart or dum, making mistakes is how us as humans learn.

What about YouTube kids?

I believe that what you are doing is wrong, YouTube is a social media where people can make money off of videos for a living based on what each channel on there is made for, for the entertainment of others, where people can learn things, and what is going on in the world. Youtube is fine how it is, if there's anotherthing you can change is Youtube kids, YouTube kids is for more safer use, Google needs shut down on gathering data to PREVENT taking advantage of COPPA and come up with the policey to restrict the children under the age of 14 year old. You can't change the entire YouTube media in a well-organized society because of what people do for a living, age restrictions before signing in youtube is a better solution, make YouTube kids into something new and shut down its collecting. Do what is best for everyone so they can make living today

Coppa fails to recognize that model train, Disney, and the high end toy markets are directed to adult customers and that parents should be responsible for what they children watch on YouTube.

This is causing great concern for both the creators and users of YouTube tutorials for things like face painting and balloon twisting. Either YouTube is trying to ditch these creators or they are not appropriately setting up options. From the explanation you provide it sounds like these creators could be given an educational type and YouTube could then apply appropriate ads to those sites. It needs to be clear who is creating the confusion. I don’t know a single balloon artist or face painter who could afford a $42,000 fine.

What if youtubers videos are made for children and teenagers as well?

As a content creator, of the smaller kind. I wish for COPPA to have YouTube make an all adults type of thing so not all content gets to disappear. Please dont take what some of us grew up with away. Please

Agree. They must also consider gender, according to studies Girls become teenagers at the age of 11-13 while boys are 13-14. Also THEY MUST consider age is not the mind. I wasnt childish after 3 yet was my brother, while some of my realitives say that they were so childish until 12 as well.

The responsibility is solely on the shoulders of the youtube content creators. So, do the content creators siphon off the data belonging to children? Do they mine the IP addresses? No, Youtube does. Yet, the responsibility and blame is on the content creators instead of the platform that takes advantage of the cookies and profits from it. Though this is moot. Children shouldn't even be on Youtube. The apps are for 17+ and to even have a Youtube or Google account, the owner has to be 13+. So, children under 13 on the platform are in violation. The owners of those accounts that allow their children to watch content on Youtube are in violation and should have their accounts removed. End of story. Get rid of the children. They are a liability to our entertainment. Youtube is not a babysitting service. That's what Youtube Kids is for.

YouTube is also not a babysitting service for creators. Every single person, creators or not, has an individual responsibility to comply with laws. YouTube is simply providing creators with the tools they need to comply with this particular law. And no one is blaming the creators or putting the sole responsibility on them. As a matter of fact, YouTube is doing all these changes, that help creators to comply with COPPA, free of charge.

I think you shouldn’t do it and just have kid go on YouTube kids

I and many other channels are concerned about COPPA effecting our content. We are doing videos with an app called Gacha Life. We make lots of skits and music videos among various different things. We show our arts if some choose to do so, but we are concerned because our content might catch the eye of children even though most of us aren't intending our audience to be children and put "13+" along side some videos. I just wanted to state this because we range in different ages.

I also have a question, how does coppa effect others who aren't getting paid for videos. Does it effect them the same or is there a difference. Please let me know and others cause this would be a big help to possibly calm down the panic going across YouTube and in the communities.

This is not going to be good for creators! Please reevaluate this and think of the creators point of view on this!

I'm still feeling a vagueness to the explanation of what constitutes a violation of the COPPA rules. I have mostly cute videos of my cats, but never intended it for children. Though, the videos would certainly be enjoyable for all ages. I have no advertising or monetization on my videos. How do the COPPA rules apply to channels like mine, where there are cat and gardening videos, just for fun, but no monetization?

Is Gacha considered for kids? Cause I use the app to generate a character to use for animations and I’m still lost on if it’s considered for kids or not. Also, do us as content creators get fined for marking our videos wrongly or just for having our videos marked as for kids?

I wanna say that many youtubers that work for youtube for a living, that it makes others happy with whatever content they create that appeals to younger or older audiences. With so much bad things in the world youtubers help make content that's not only entertaining but to help cope with harsh realities, cause I like watching them making others laugh and laughter is best medicine.

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