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

This rule is unclear, much I do not understand and does not seem to make the slightest sense, it is the duty of parents to take care of children. not from the content creators.

This entire thing shouldn't be applied to YouTube in the first place because to have an account on YouTube you have to agree to the Terms of Service and the ToS specifically tells you that you have to be 13 years of age or older to use the site. Coppa is meant to protect those that are under 13.

Can you (the FTC) consider a "general" option where the content isnt geared specifically for adults or kids?

I dont have any ads on my videos, and my channel is literally just video clips of things i did in T or higher rated gamea that i thought were cool and didnt want clogging up my hardrive. Is this going to effect me at all?

This is not fair to creators of crafts , rainbow loom charms made with a chrochet hook , Sculpture and sewing among other things.
Also family vlogs. These are my main interests and I'm 55 if it matters.
All of the above videos have stuff in them you mention for kids like animals, kids, animation and bright colors. And product reviews so you can know if it's worth buying. If they go away, a big portion of the viewers will be leaving too.

If I curse and play kid games like Roblox and Fortnite which should I pick kids or not for kids make something for this please, like if you curse and play game Rated e10+ like in the middle and they lose have of there money If you do this, I won't have to stress this more than I already am.

It seems somewhat odd to propose a rule without exact definitions for all that should be considered under what is defined as "childrens content" though it isn't easily definable, especially since some areas would certainly be opinionated. without definitions for what things like "childrens activities" and what kinds of music/audio would be seen as directed to children it's hard to say exactly what would be considered for kids and what wouldn't without proper definitions and little time to review said definitions seeing as this issue is much more complex than it seems and we seemingly will not be getting definitions until all comments are reviewed or january 1st 2020 when COPPA takes effect making it a difficult question to ask yourself without the proper information being known and fully understood.

Why did you make YouTube forget about YouTube kids

Even though I’m not a creator of any sorts, I am confused by many things. Why is literally Everything SO DAMN VAGUE, how the hell am I supposed to know what half of it even means, there is no examples, no guidelines, or even a small reason it is the creators fault for the children watching certain videos, I mean seriously if your gonna make a rule. Either make it comprehensible, or don’t do it at all, because it is useless to fine people for stuff they don’t understand to begin win. And we have the freedom of choice, so we shouldn’t be punished for others faults.

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.

There are simple rules to follow for everyone, They're outlined in the 6 step plan for businesses to be COPPA compliant. Of all the businesses to be complaining about privacy protection--it's coming from the ones who directly create content and gain ad revenue directly from minors.

This was a big win for consumer protections. Now the line is blurred because most content creators are also more like the profile of a consumer. You're making content from your home, possibly as a hobby, and building a revenue stream over time. Now it's time for you to do your part in the issues you've most likely voice complaint in wanting protections for yourself.

No one's ad revenue should be lost if you make yourself COPPA compliant. Youtube will roll out support for compliance just like Wordpress and other platforms supporting content creators have done. Give it a little time and in the meantime, quit trying to shut it down. It's a win for consumers.

Why do I feel like the FTC does not know how Youtube works?

because they don't. they called channels "sites", and probably thought the creators are collecting data. if the FTC sees this, then i'm just gonna say that ONLY YOUTUBE COLLECTS DATA FOR ADS, NOT THE CONTENT CREATORS. don't punish the content creators #save content creators

Please change the law
Many children's channels will produce adult content and watch such content in children.

Above everything being incredibly vague, nothing at all mentions if/how this affects non-monetized channels, and how severely. There are plenty of channels, my own included, that are used for hobby projects are never intended for monetization, but it sounds like even that can be struck with a fine, instantly destroying that person's financial record.

I did not upload video's to make money. I uploaded to share my adventures. How can I answer who it's intended for, if it's family friendly? It's simply public. Anyone could watch.

"civil penalties of up to 42,530"

Please Dont Do This We Are Content Creators that just wanted to make videos for fun and you just gonna want to destroy it?? please cancel this rules.Did you guys forgot about YouTube Kids?

Please don’t do this do you even have a cellphone at all and p.s YouTube does not need this.

F. T. C., PLEASE, Why can't you & C. O. P. P. A. EVER leave youtube alone? Youtube Videos are supposed to be judged over the age gap by Swears, Violence and Sexuality, not by Characters, toys and Canon Media. Even Arlo was feeling terrible about. And it turns out you have a hatred Super Mario Logan, too. JUST LET THE YOUTUBE USERS KEEP THEIR KID RELATED VIDEO GAME/CARTOON YOUTUBE VIDEOS WITH OVER AGE 13 CONTENT AND LEAVE YOUTUBE ALONE!! I'M DEAD SERIOIUS STOP HARASSING THEM!!

I think a closer look needs to be taken at what exactly is kid-friendly. A lot of people that are adults played video games as kids and continue to do so as adults. Just look at E-sports competitions and the ratings of some games. There are a lot that are rated teen and mature. I put videos of myself playing games for my friends because we live in different states now and do Teen and older games, and don't want to be flagged or fined because a kid decided to watch something that wasn't geared towards them and was meant for people of age to be watching or just because it had a video game tag on it.

Does videos of animals and such come across as Childesh?

This is bad man. There are people trying to make money and entertain people or even educate them but for some reason if the video is 'made for kids' then it can not be found on google. This is affecting a lot of people and their revenue and also people that are wanting to make a career out of this which includes kids as well. Not only that but half the rules don't make sense like having children character models and celebrities that may be for children; well who are these celebrities? or how about when there are 'made for kids' content in the video but swearing is involved or if the game is not targeted at kids at all? These rules should be clearer and more simple. Not only that but more lenient as half of the kids under 12 or 13 swear every second word.

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.

I don’t understand. My channel contains animated characters but it’s a storyline. It contains no voices and children won’t be able to read it. So my channel isn’t for under 13 and it’s not for 18+

Can you not add a 13+ rule? I don’t wish to delete my channel.

The responsibility should lie with the parents as it does with cable t.v. and the internet in general. This rule smacks of a government profiteering scheme.

This will literally cause the end of youtube, one of the most free (even if some creators get demonitized) platforms on youtube. Youtube is watched as much if not more than cable tv, and is far more reliable for the vast spectrum of content. By doing this, you are almost certainly causing the collapse of youtube. Furthermore in the collapse of youtube, I may be humored to hear the FTC being sued for 1st amendment disruptions, as this may even be against free speech and a free press. I understand the argument, but I personally can not see this standing in court

"Children's Online Privacy Protection Act"
Because content creators are able to steal information from children.
That said, I feel like video/computer gaming content should be completely excluded from COPPA due to the ESRB already overlooking intended audiences through its rating system. The rating system goes as follows:
E (Everyone), E10+ (Everyone aged 10+), T (Teen), M (Matured 17+), AO (Adults Only)
E rating includes all ages being able to enjoy the game, not just children but adults too.
E10+ rating is anyone 10 years of age or older being able to enjoy the game.
T rating is 13+ years of age minimum, even though it doesn't have a direct number visually attached to it.
M rating is for young adults to full adults.
AO rating is self explanatory, it covers purely adult content.

The ESRB was created and designed purely to look over video games and its audiences, outside interference from something like COPPA is not necessary. The ESRB has even been praised by the FTC itself as the best self-regulatory organization in the entertainment.

I am an animator that make movies such as love stories like that but I don't add sexual and harming things am I considered as kids or adults?

I have 4 abandoned channels on YouTube. I do not have access to those channels anymore so I can’t go in and mark the videos. Some were school projects and others were personal videos. How will this new policy apply to these channels which no longer have access to?

why should we the creators have to pay a fine of 4500 dollars for youtubes mistake of mistakes and the new youtube feature wont work correctly they will have ai searching for the videos most of the creators arent trying to gain a kids audience but get them some feel that they cant make a case if that a video of them reviwe toy such as model cars , funko pops witch are not kids or them doing a diy - do it your self video is for kids like we can mark it as not for kids but the youtube bot can flag it by mistake and then the us the creators have pay a fine witch is a mistake by the youtube bot and so many creators have food channels like trying snack boxs and they arent trying to target kids kids will still find a way to watch it there is youtube kids and parents can apporve what kids can watch or not content creators even put some dicription that they are not a kids channel maybe young kids love jeefree stars , shane dawson , tirsha paytas , channels and yet there not a kid target site but kids watch them

I think there should be 1) for KIDS; 2);FAMILY friendly 3) ADULT 4) MATURE. I.E. G, PG, PG-13, R
This system seems to work for movies.
Please don’t make this more complicated/difficult!

I understand the desire to protect younger audiences, but Coppa is negative, not the way to go. It is not our job as creators to monitor children in a way parents should with anything their younger child watches. YouTube kids is a thing. I don’t understand blaming us creators for something parents should be doing normally..

You guys are mad, anything is for children, do you guys even own a phone at all? Because it doesn't seem like you do.

Will I get fined 42000 if I make my channel "made for kids" or "not made for kids??

It’s if you lie and the FTC calls you out. If you market it as not for kids when it’s clearly for kids, that means kids are getting targeted ads by default, and that’s in violation of the law, so you’ll get the hefty fine.

This is probably the worst thing you could do to Youtube! So many people’s lives will be at stake!
You should not allow kids to use the main youtube site and only use the kids app! Punish the parents not the content creators!

what about music producers? I post type beats and make tutorials but they are not directed towards kids and my audience is primarily 18-24

I make roller coaster videos and many other channels do as well. Our content is not intentionally directed at children and our analytics show a prime audience of 18-24 (mostly male), but theme parks with rides of bright colors and possibly characters / mascots in the park are in a grey area. Is this considered safe for kids? I do not want it to be safe for kids as it is for general audiences. Kids may not find it generally interesting, but there may be some points that might peak interest. Where does this place me?

FTC Pls don't ruin youtube

YouTube is a superb and popular platform. It does however need some policing and kids have been exposed to adult-friendly content for years, it's great the FTC is trying to protect kids, and in no way should children's information be collected, not even for ads. But to not have a grey area and to enforce all channels to lose their perks if they have child-related content is not approved by the majority of us. Please give significant YouTuber's back their main source of income whilst helping make YouTube a safe and secure place for all... All the best everybody.

I made poem video.

As a parent, I don't think it's fair to hide channels and videos just because they are for children. This will be taking away resources for children and parents, as well as livelihoods for content creators. I think that if I say it's okay for my child to watch an art/craft video or a video about animation or learning a foreign language it should be searchable, easily found and the creators deserve to earn money from their videos. If this is going to be the way things are, I think it should be YouTubes responsibility to implement an age verification system so that the many videos that appeal to different ages can only be viewed by adults or with an adults permission. Creators should not be fined if a child finds a video appealing- that makes no sense. YouTube is making the most money off of the work of the creators, and they alone should have to figure out how to comply with the laws and should be held responsible for any fines. Don't pressure hobbyists and people who love to share knowledge into deleting videos and quitting YouTube. They should be protected.

Yes! I fully agree! I'm not a parent, but seeing a comment from one is awesome!

i am an anime drawing youtube channel,but anime are fro teen,not for childrens,and i help people how to draw.is that affected from coppa?

... don’t worry, I think you’re fine. Anime has a reputation of being fanservice-y from any person on the planet who knows anything about anime. 11 year olds are not watching anime. They’re watching gatcha, (which might get hit tbh) but I think You’re fine.

I am for coops but in its current state it will destroy YouTube and the lives of millions because the guidelines are not clear

Coppa not coops sorry about that

YouTube supports a feature where videos can be marked as "Age-restricted video (requested by uploader)" and if you visit one of those videos, YouTube will refuse to show you the video or page unless you are logged into an account where the age is 18 or older.
Why can't a similar feature be added that allows creators to restrict their videos to people 13 or older (with YouTube doing the same age checks as they do for the existing age-restricted videos) and then the whole "directed at children" issue becomes moot since children wont even see the video in their recommendations or other places they see videos) and can't watch it even if they find it via other means.

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