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

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)?

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.

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.

please stop replying with something we've already read

I have read the new standers you are putting on YouTube content creators is not right when it comes to Anima, because lumping all animation together is not correct. Yes a lot of animation is for kids, but most is ment for people ages 16 and up. I understand that a large majority of the people that work for the F.T.C. do not watch or understand anima, but you should do some due diligence and research the differences in all types of anima.

PLEASE! Most of us create content for a mixed-up audience. Put a "Directed to mixed-up audience" category on Youtube. It would be simple for all of us. PLEASE!

As a viewer of YouTube, and as a Mother and Grandmother I know that Children are naturally inquisitive about everything, so how would a creator ever be able to make a video about anything without a child wanting to watch it! And what YouTube and Google did was not the fault of the Video Creators, YouTube and Google were the ones collecting IP Address's or names and personal information, they were the one's running the website, just like they have collected all personal data on everyone that has ever crossed their internet path. I ask that you please look to a different solution, such as the parents allowing the children to use their devices and accessing YouTube only under a child's login account.

What kind of music would be specifically could be directed to kids?

i know that this is just to protect kids, but whatever law you make, it will always be parents and community that make them safe from any content. go to places where crime can be seen by kids and thought that its just normal. do youtube content have something to do with what they will acquire? there is youtube kids that my son use and its enough son to view appropriate content. even normal tv channels will show lots of appealing to kids advertisements, how would they comply with this vague law?

FTC... You are not answering a single comment or question here, so why have a comment section? My content is not "MADE FOR" kids, but is perfectly appropriate for them to view. YOU HAVE NO ANSWER TO THIS SCENARIO.

It seems a bit excessive. Maybe just disable info gathering on YouTube without penalizing content creators.

This is killing YouTube! Please stop this. This is nonsense. So many you tubers are going to loose their jobs. This is not YouTube’s fault, because you aren’t even allowed to have a YouTube account under the age of 13. It is the parents that are supposed to watch their kids watching stuff on YouTube, not YouTube babysitting the children. Please stop this COPPA thing and let us enjoy YouTube with how it was and how everyone enjoyed it.

From comment to comment people have been blindly panicking. Although it might not reflect rational thoughts and just end up wasting time. I feel like the law is fair, but there could be more done, but targeted more at the corporations like Youtube to help Content Creators be less confused.

Although Youtube paid the fine they could still do some more, I think Youtube should split the audiences or kick kids out of their site.

If they split the audiences, Youtube could ask for either the date of birth or an email which would verify that the person is at least 13 years of age and Youtube Kids could be for children under 13. Where I feel, Youtube Kids should still have some sort of parent consent whether to have an email sent to their parents/guardians to use Youtube Kids

With kicking out kids entirely, although a huge chunk of viewers would drop it would be safer and easier. Where Youtube could still use the date of birth or email to make sure whether or not they could go on the website.

By having both children under the age 13 and people 13 years or older on the same site it would be confusing. It would be hard to decide between and in-between content made for adults and content msde for kids under the age of 13.

In conclusion, corporations need to do more for causing the rules to be broken and having every single audience on one site would not be a good idea. I think its more of a decission of splitting the audience into two groups or cutting off kids under 13 entirely. Having the corporations do more to split the audiences would go a long way in making the internet safer for children

Finally, YouTube is becoming more responsible for the content uploaded on their platform. People who are against this regulation have no idea what impact has the videos to a kid. The same should be done on Instagram and all social media.

Don't let your guidelines punish innocent creators! These guidelines are overly broad and vague. If this isn't done carefully it has the potential to ruin the lives of creators everywhere.

Honestly, we understand that you want to protect children and all, but these rules are going too far. Having people being fined up to 42,000 dollars is insane. YouTube Kids is a thing, and kids can be safer on that. Instead of having insane fines and crazy strict rules, parents should have the option to determine whether their kid should have the much safer option of YouTube Kids. There should be something where parents can toggle an option to block anything that isn't child friendly, including censoring swearing, blurring nudity, etc. Although this is all my opinion, I say you should either make the penalties less strict, or having that toggling censorship button.

Really think you all should clear this up specially for the crafting Community ! How can a program get this right! We use glue, scissors, paper , sewing and so on ! Why is this not the parents job or why are the parents not held responsible ! This needs to be fixed before the first of the year!

Would it not be easier to allow youtube to create a child friendly platform. And make parents sign a disclaimer that they are responsible for what thier children watch. If there was a separate youtube section for kids like they have youtube music etc so crafters could continue to post thier excellent craft vids to youtube without fear of a fine or prosecution

I'm still confused about a lot of details. The biggest one on my mind is how does this work for a content creator who can't or chose not to monetize their content on YouTube. In these cases I shouldn't be responsible for marketing my videos for kids because I am not marketing. There are zero ads on the videos in these cases and I'm not collecting data on my viewers. So in these cases it's YouTube collecting the data and yet you're saying you're going to fine me for something I'm not doing? Just because my content may look like it's kid ordinated whether or not I'm marketing and/or shooting for a young audience.

This system is fundamentally flawed seeing as: This means that if kids are on the platform, their recommended would be more mature content, because kids' videos cant be recommended and child-like audio is going to cause an uproar no matter how its handled. Please reconsider this, and best of luck to anybody trying to.

You need to clarify what actions appealing to kids means. This could have drastic effects on the many human beings who rely on YouTube as their source of income for their livelihood.

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.

Some you tubers it is their full time job so u CANT TAKE ADS DOWN!!! I will have no way of communicating with my subscribers so I cannot make videos they will like. YouTube used to be the second largest website (next to google), but now it will die because of COPPA. Please, it was fine the way it was before!!!! Don’t change it!!!

I hate coppa I was looking forward to be a youtuber and Now I don’t want to be find 42,500 dollars

This law doesn’t really address the problem of children using YouTube inappropriately, proving their own personal information, or lying about their age. The video or content owners do not have control to collect analytics (YouTube does, Advertisers have access to the information). This law as proposed creates a hardship on the creators. Rethink the consequences.

This is great new to hear! In "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." It gives me hope that things on YouTube will be getting better!

Please dont do this to me i make 10$ a week and trying to not go bankrupt. I work so hard and i make very little money off of youtube but just enough to buy my fam some food because the check dont hit after 2 weeks. Please dont do this. Not only will my account go bankrupt, but so will youtube

What do you mean "If it includes child actors or models"? What if I just included my baby as extra on my video that is not intended for children? Is that considered Made for Kids?

please try to be reasonable I understand that this is a huge issue and I support what you are attempting to do but this is not the way to do this YouTube changes people’s lives it gets them through the rough patches in life it lets them go to a place of pure creativity where anyone can make something and show it to the world.. but now they won’t have a way to make money even if this has been they’re job for the past few years, Gaming channels will lose everything, Animators who are just starting out will lose everything, people with dreams of making it big like they’re idols on this platform won’t even be given a chance please reconsider what your doing they’re had to be another way to fix this issue

Bro I can tell you at least 5 reasons why this rule sucks
#1 gaming youtubers can't post
#2 no one is going to use the yt kids app because it is not relevant anymore
#3 people have made a lot of money off of yt but now with this law every one is going to be broke and homeless
#4 yt will not get profit for people posting good videos
#5 its just plain out WRONG

Can you please clarify what type of “visual content” is considered kid friendly and what isn’t? Specifically referring to animated videos.

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.

Why is there no middle ground?
If there is content on YouTube that could be for all ages, why there is no option to put that content as a category "directed to all ages" or "E rating"?

Content creators don't babysit, they entertain. Implementing these rules can pretty much end a lot careers built on Youtube alone. Plus, Youtube Kids exists.

This is far too vague, and potentially harmful to multiple adult focused content creators. you don't understand young adult's enjoyment patterns. you desperately need to re-word this law.

I'm Dutch and I do not collect data I'm no big Firm that can do that...I'm a parent and I teach my child not to publicly use our adres or phone information...If a child should do it any way...I understand its dangerous and will never use it because I don't collect data anyway... I'm a single person not a YouTube Firm that can collect data. I'm a crafter and love to have children watching because it teaches and inspirer a whole new generation. But This Law is to vague and not compleet for the users of platforms like YouTube on the Web...I understand its not only YouTube it's a worldwide internet platform use...I will put for kids...But this law is not clear on anything of the content of my canal at YouTube as a crafter????

Hello FTC, im a 13 year old kid and youtube is something you just cannot change. Please don’t do the COPPA thing because it will not just affect the viewers like me but it will also affect the content creators. Many good youtubers will fail because they cannot make content anymore. My suggestion is that you COMPLETELY cancel this COPPA thing or you can just adjust this. The rules are too strict. FTC, if you somehow read this, im just helping myself and other youtubers. Im complaning politely, and thank you for reading this

I don't think that there is a single person watching YouTube who genuinely wants this to be a thing. COPPA is incredibly vague and clearly wasn't given much thought, as it completely mess with the livelihood of most if not all content creators on YouTube. The internet has gone on long enough without this becoming a thing and it makes no sense for these guideline to start now.

I would like to know if me making videos about my gothic culture is considered kid friendly. I deleted my videos to avoid any future fines as I cannot afford them. Would I need to curse in order to maintain an adult audience? I do not nor have I ever wished to target my channel to children. I am scared about the whole situation to the point where my anxiety is getting worse. I would like some clarification to at least calm down a bit.

This is absolutely outrageous. there are countless of other ways that this issue could have been dealt with. and because of this law, millions of peoples lives are going to be ruined forever. I would rather have youtube permanently deleted than have this rule come into play. I hope that you guys can learn to see this issue through the creators eyes, and remove or at least adjust this rule to make it more clear for these creators.

why did this have to happen man i just wanna post without getting fined a fortune

Hello FTC and anyone else reading this response to the recent issue that has arisen with "children directed content". I myself have been a small creator on Youtube for a few months now and reading these new guidelines on my channel has concerned me deeply. It is true that many children use Youtube every day to watch their favorite content creators and are found in dangerous situations here and there to inappropriate content, like any other social media platform/website. From what I've read throughout all the articles, guidelines, concerns, etc. about this issue I've come to the conclusion that this statement of guideline changes is still very vague. You've given a decent explanation so far of what content creators need to look out for and what we can be fined upon but the guidelines are still unclear for some creators. These creators being the ones who intend their videos to be directed towards Youtube's standard audience of 13+, who don't curse, have animated characters, and include well-known franchises (like the gaming community) let's say like Pokemon or Minecraft. What will happen to these channels? To me, they are perfectly fine and these types of demographics are related to kids, teens, and adults. Therefore why should they put their channel into one categorized setting from mature to child-directed? I personally believe that this new rule should be removed from Youtube completely as it will destroy the platform and force content creators to find new sources of income. This new rule would also potentially make content on Youtube more mature, meaning more cursing and inappropriate topics. We all know that kids lie about their age on the internet and sometimes parents tell their kids to do this as well because of privacy issues, so what if these children come across one of these newly made mature videos? Instead, why don't we remove this new guideline in general and promote the family-friendly channels and Youtube kids then remove the inappropriate channels you don't want your kids watching. Half of the time kids don't even pay attention to ads and will just skip them entirely so I don't understand how this has become a major issue on Youtube especially since ads can be found anywhere in technology. Ads can be found on cable TV, websites, social media platforms, apps on your electronic device, a billboard sign, a restaurant/fast food joint, and even schools. Therefore I ask you please think about this decision once again before you destroy amazing people's financial services and the vague guidelines you set before us creators. Thank you for your time. - Natalie

Please don’t do this to YouTube this will hurt every content creator and their channels this is something that they love to do which is their job and their life especially the videos we all like to watch don’t take them down that’s why there’s YouTube kids that these younger viewers can watch leave YouTube the way it is!

The biggest issue is that the decision as to whether COPPA would apply to a video - such as a mature craft or hobby video - is ultimately subjective, by which time it would appear to be too late.
That makes it a BAD solution, because there is no clarity - no hard line. It is wrong to have laws that can massively fine people when the law itself cannot provide sufficient clarity of definition for real day-to-day application by normal people.

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.

You people need to realize that a lot of the stuff you listed as "appealing to kids" is liked by adults too, not just some adults but wide swaths of the adult and young adult population! Learn about nerd, geek, animation, etc culture, just because of kids like it too DOES NOT MEAN IT IS FOR KIDS. Learn more about what you are regulating before you destroy not only an entire online community but the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of people who make content related to pop culture and who aim their content AT ADULTS!

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