YouTube asking FTC for clarity on COPPA following fine

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Earlier the year the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) slapped a massive $170 million fine on YouTube for violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). In the wake of the fine, YouTube decided to change its policies, and in particular those which pertained to children-directed content on the platform.

The result was that creators either had to mark their content as children-directed, or in some instances specific videos. This was done to ensure that no data was pulled from the viewers watching said content, but as with many of the changes that YouTube puts in place, there were some grey areas and a serious lack of clarity.

As such many creators were left frustrated by the change, as it potentially meant they stood to earn less on videos for fears of it being incorrectly labelled and therefore penalised.

This change happened a couple of months ago, and following some creators venting in the subject, YouTube is finally reaching out to the FTC for clarity on the situation, so all three parties are aware of how children-directed content should be handled an COPPA is fully complied with.

“Currently, the FTC’s guidance requires platforms must treat anyone watching primarily child-directed content as children under 13. This does not match what we see on YouTube, where adults watch favorite cartoons from their childhood or teachers look for content to share with their students,” explained the platform in an announcement.

“Creators of such videos have also conveyed the value of product features that wouldn’t be supported on their content. For example, creators have expressed the value of using comments to get helpful feedback from older viewers. This is why we support allowing platforms to treat adults as adults if there are measures in place to help confirm that the user is an adult viewing kids’ content,” YouTube adds.

As TechCrunch notes, YouTube wants the FTC to provide guidelines as to when an adult is watching kid’s content and vice versa. The latter is particularly important, especially as creators have no control over who watches their content.

The FTC had offered some additional guidance in November, but YouTube found it unsatisfactory, as it does not lay out the best course of action when it comes to a “mixed audience” viewing content as it terms it.

To that end YouTube has submitted comments to the FTC as part of a review of COPPA. Additional comments and submissions on the subject can be made by those Stateside until 11th December at midnight, after which the agency will review everything.

We could then receive a new set of guidelines in the New Year, and potentially more changes moving forward for creators to fall in line with.

“We strongly support COPPA’s goal of providing robust protections for kids and their privacy. We also believe COPPA would benefit from updates and clarifications that better reflect how kids and families use technology today, while still allowing access to a wide range of content that helps them learn, grow and explore,”  the platform added.

“We continue to engage on this issue with the FTC and other lawmakers (we previously participated in the FTC’s public workshop) and are committed to continue doing so,” YouTube concluded.

Regardless of what the FTC says, it’s clear that YouTube wants to get on the right side of regulations as it does not want to have to pay another sizeable fine for failing to do so.

[Image – Photo by Christian Wiediger on Unsplash]

Robin-Leigh Chetty

Robin-Leigh Chetty

When he's not reviewing the latest smartphones, Robin-Leigh is writing about everything tech-related from IoT and smart cities, to 5G and cloud computing. He's also a keen photographer and dabbles in console games.