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 video is not for kids and I also don't get commets

Just another case of oppression

My Content There's Make For Public, And available To Watch For Kind Is well.

How can I change my audience?

Anything that can protect my grandchildren and all the children all over the world means something to me amazing.

I'm sorry for all the bad wonds I said

That is good for kids youtube is dooing waill

Seems to me that the problem is YouTubes algorithms and advertising policies, so why are channel creators being punished? Most channel creators can't make sense of the rules and violations of YouTube's ever changing artificial intelligence as it is. It is just as vague as the FTC COPPA rule. There's more gray area than anything than anything black and white. Its all a guessing game. Why does the FTC not demand YouTube/Google change its algorithums, data collection and personal advertisment policies? What ever happened to parents being held responsible for what their children do or watch? From my understanding, the YouTube website is not intended for children under 13 years old in the first place. If children are too immature to be online, and the entire world has to be censored to protect them, then they shouldn't be given phones and tablets with internet access. Now the government, the state of New York , YouTube, Google and the advertisers will all reap the rewards while the little guy, the content creator is put at risk to suffer financial ruin either by demonitization of their videos or hefty and unrealistic FTC COPPA penalites. This is obsurd! Government needs to stay out of the child rearing business as nothing good can ever come from it.

Absolutely agree with this. Who is gathering personal data about viewers of Youtube videos? Only Youtube/Google, NOT the content creators. If the content of a video is not appropriate for children, that is of course the creator's responsibility. But when the concern is about gathering of data from children who watch Youtube, why should content creators be punished for something Google does in their own responsibility?

What about content created for parents, teachers, and other educators, to give them ideas about activities for children? Such content will of course show children, and activities which are appealing to children. However, the intention of such content is not that it should be viewed by children, but by adults who are educating children. In such cases, no matter how creators classify the content, they can always be accused of having it classified wrong. If it is for adults, they can be accused for showing children and activities appealing to children. If it is for children, they can be accused for containing content directed to adults (educators). No way out?

if a content creator marks their video to not be child friendly, and others determine that it is, what happens to the creator? does he get fined for wrongly marking his video?

Yes, i make it both kids and mature

I'm 54 years old.
Restrictions for "Kids" Don't apply to me.
My phone.. My Videos.
Knock it off.

Horrible. Making videos of toys for kids and now I've been hit by coppa. Absalutely terrible.

There is a problem with YouTube

This is best policy

I am wondering, even after the cops rules have been in affect for some time, what about content creators that are under the age of 18, me and my friends are planning on making a channel. So my question is, how does cops affect content creators that are children?

My vedio is not made for kids and thank you so much for all informative tips

stop this nonsense

Sorry
my video and Chennai is not harmful anybody specially for children if i upload any video such as harmful for anybody so please inform me and you can remove thanks

What’s going to happen to videos that kids can enjoy, but kids aren’t the directed audience?

My vedio is not made for the kids thank you

Okay for one. I am not a "kid" so why do they have it on all accounts.? Or am I just slow also, how would I not have it.?

I dont have any children nor do I have any childrenwho can get my YouTube or watch on YouTube. Why should I suffer. I don't watch things for kids.

What if I upload gameplay footage that most children, teens, and adults play? Example: Minecraft. Would it automatically be considered for kids? Even though my audience is general. What if I write and compose my own songs? Will my songs be considered for kids? I aim to entertain all ages. What happens if I label it correctly, but others think it's for kids? Would I be punished and fined? What about content creators who are new and not wealthy? How can they pay the fine? What if I get punished for a so-called mislabeled content? By the false assumption of whoever is looking out for that. May you guys, please specify in detail what is for kids and what's not for kids. The games I play are mostly for teens, but I'm an adult who plays Minecraft as well. May you please also elaborate on the type of games that are meant for kids? What if the games I play are not rated E for everyone, but may be considered as for kids by whoever is monitoring the content on YouTube? What if I get fined, but don't have the money to pay for the fine because of my financial issues? Please let me know. I'm also a good woman who really doesn't want to get in trouble by law for some misconception on YouTube.

Why is COPPA on YouTube harsher than COPPA on Twitch? Why must most things be considered as for kids? Some kids play mature games, some adults play kids games (Not that childish). Not all animation are meant for kids, but they still watch it. What's the purpose of the ESRB ratings on US games if characters are supposedly for kids? What makes songs kids only? I listen to cartoon theme songs and one of them is for preschool kids (The Save-Ums! theme) and I am 22 years old. I write my own songs and it's meant for all ages, but someone considers it as for kids? What happens if I label my content correctly, but someone thinks I didn't and I end up getting in trouble for the misconception between the monitor. What will happen if someone gets fined, but they can't pay it due to financial issues? Some of us only make content for a living. What if I do a vlog and my kitty and dog are in the backgound would that be considered for kids? Pets are companions for all ages. What if I use simple words? Would that be considered as for kids? What does simple English words have to do with kids? Anybody can use simple words such as, cool and etc. I'd want to know why is COPPA on YouTube more aggressive than COPPA on Twitch? Words are meant to be used to express one's thought. Please take your time to review this. I'm curious, both Twitch and YouTube are streaming platforms, but YouTube is also a video platform. All I would like is for you guys to elaborate and be a little more specific because not everything targets kids audience.

if you are a child making a video that is "not for kids" What will happen? How will it categorize it?

What happen I want to post my video singing to my channel...

so far my channel is mostly on cooking, what is appropriate please, Kids or Adults ?

This is annoying. I'm used educational videos for childrens to teach Spanish and now I can't save any of them! What I can do?

Can somebody help me out please. How can I change a video that I chose suitable for Children at first. I want people to giver reactions so I need to change that the video is not suitable for children to watch. For common sense or whatever. How can I change this. Thanks for reading this and helping me Tom de Jong

This is not a great idea
#NOCOPPA

I not satisfied you stop the old mahabharat episodes this is not fare kids are not seen this video of mahabharat

im follow the rules but cant activate the comments

Hi sir my fist channel for YouTube

Why not upload my YouTube videos

My video is why I deactivate comments from YouTube even though the video that I made does not have any content either for children or adults

Would like to open a comment The clip is for entertainment.

My account is set on ‘for children’, but now I am happy for people in the industry to share, like, comment and subscribe. How do I change my settings to anyone can see?

What do you mean exactly by Kids Games or content, does Roblox fit the bill or does it bot, for example? There are many Gray Areas that I noticed while reading, can you elaborate on the specifics.

I'm happy to see changes and specifications are being made about this COPPA rule.
Other things that need clarifying are such things as the 42k fine, can the fine really be applied to those overseas.

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