Advertisers hit by YouTube changes | Information AgeJanuary 15, 2020
Creators of online children’s content could be forced to cut jobs as new YouTube content-rating policies threaten to dry up the advertising revenue streams on which they depend.
The new policy, which was outlined in a YouTube blog and came into effect on 6 January, forces creators of YouTube content to explicitly label their videos as being made for kids or not.
Advertisers will be blocked from collecting information viewers of such videos, with content creators prevented from targeted advertising to under-13s.
The changes are intended to bring YouTube into compliance with the United States’ 20-year-old Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) rule, which prevents online operators from collecting data from users under 13 without verifiable parental consent.
Because it used persistent advertising identifiers to track the viewing habits of those watching child-focused videos, YouTube parent company Google was accused of earning “millions of dollars” for violating COPPA in a FTC lawsuit that led to a $243m ($US170m) settlement (watch the announcement here) last September.
Terms of that settlement included the enforcement of child-only content restrictions, which became mandatory this month.
The changes will be rolled out globally this year, with YouTube producers in Australia and other non-US jurisdictions pressed to consider whether their country’s definition of ‘kid’ also implies a cut-off age of 13.
Putting a price on privacy
Child-advocacy groups have been complaining about YouTube’s behaviour for years, arguing in a formal submission that YouTube only paid lip service to COPPA with terms of service requiring users to be at least 13 and an alternative YouTube Kids app designed for younger users.
YouTube has long maintained that the rules mean its service isn’t for kids – but some 19 individual groups fought back hard in comments to the FTC after Google pushed for an exemption based on the argument that many adults watch kids’ videos as well.
Content producers are lamenting the end of the “golden age of kids’ YouTube” and critics are wondering how the “hellscape of kids’ videos” ever got to become such big business.
COPPA doesn’t have a direct analogue in Australia but the global nature of YouTube’s policy means the effects are likely to be felt here – particularly given the mass movement of children’s viewing from TV to online platforms.
The extent of that change in viewing habits became clear in a recent government review, which cited OzTAM figures suggesting that audiences for pre-school TV programming dropped by two-thirds from 2010 to 2016 and 5-to-13 audiences dropped by half.
That review recommended the abolition of quotas on children’s programming “that is not reaching its intended audience”, freeing free-to-air networks from the “massive commitment of resources” that was no longer meetings its intended goals.
Setting the new rules for children’s content