YouTube has officially reported its arrangement to have content creators mark any uploads of theirs that are targeted to kids. Beginning in January 2020, if YouTubers mark a video as ‘targeted at kids,’ data collection will be obstructed for viewers. And personalised ads on videos for kids will be shown based on the context rather than user data.
Google affirmed this new framework that was an aftereffect of a milestone $170 million settlement YouTube had with the Federal Trade Commission in September for allegedly committing a violation under the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which denies data collection from people younger than 13 without unequivocal assent from their parents. The violation was the biggest the agency had put on Google till date, after conducting investigations on YouTube’s handling of the data of users under the age of 13.
The decision implies that YouTube can’t utilize its ad-targeting on any individual who may be younger than 13 — a critical issue for a platform with such a significant number of young users.
In the past, YouTube said its service was proposed to users with ages above 13 even though a large number of kids and adolescents consume its content. Now, it seems, YouTube will make sure its complies fully with COPPA and will make it mandatory for content creators to state if the content is made for kids.
Meanwhile YouTube has its very own application for kids, called YouTube Kids but the app does not collect any personal data on kids for advertisements. The aforementioned policy changes only apply to the general app due to the fact that kids may be watching unsupervised content there. YouTube said that it removes thousands of accounts per week when it detects belonging to viewers under the age of 13, however, kids may be watching kids content unsupervised.
What Does It Mean For Content Creators?
For content creators, it seems that they may have to face actions in case they mislabel videos even unintentionally. On the other hand, if they do label their content as meant for kids, they will be devoid of many of the powerful features of the platform including ad revenue. It is to be noted that the top-earning channels on YouTube for years have been those who are making content for kids, primarily toys review, games, etc. Critics have also stated that the new system would put the entire burden on content creators, and not on Google, which is unfair. On the other hand, Google is implementing the new policy as part of the settlement deal it made with FTC.
If your video has actors, characters, activities, games, songs, stories or other subject matter that is intended for children’s audience, it’s likely made for kids. And, if not, then it’s unlikely that the content needs to be marked for kids. Even if the video is safe to watch for everyone, it still does not mean it’s made for kids and the content creator has to mark the label based on the targeted audience and selecting the option does not restrict or reduce the reach of the video.
Head of Family Partnerships at YouTube in a video said, “You will be required to tell us if your content is made for kids. In addition, we’ll use machine learning to help us identify videos that clearly target young audiences. If a creator attempts to avoid categorizing their content correctly, there may be consequences on the YouTube platform for that creator.”
Many content creators have expressed concerns that the new data policy changes will bring about lower advertisement income for many content creators. Not just that, those videos which are declared to be made for kids will lose a portion of the platform’s most well-known features, including comments and end screens.
YouTube Says ML Based Labeling For Kids Audience Won’t Be Perfect
YouTube says it will be using machine learning in order to identify videos that clearly targeted towards young audiences and have an emphasis on children characters, animated characters, toys, songs/poems/stories, child protagonists, and other content markers. If a creator attempts to avoid categorizing their content correctly, there may be consequences on the YouTube platform for that creator.
According to YouTube, while its ML-based system will look for mislabeled videos, but like any other automated systems, it may not be perfect. “You should not rely on us for setting your audience. If we detect any error or abuse, then we may set an audience for you. But, in most cases, we will rely on the audience’s setting to mark whether a video is made for kids or not,” stated YouTube.
But the weird part is that stories, comments, notification tab, playlists, add to watch later, etc. will not be available on all videos from January 2020, as all those features also need user data similar to personalised ads. To which, the Head of Family Partnerships at YouTube said, “We know it’s a big change but we have to limit data collection on kids’ videos to comply with the law.”
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Vishal Chawla is a senior tech journalist at Analytics India Magazine and writes about AI, data analytics, cybersecurity, cloud computing, and blockchain. Vishal also hosts AIM's video podcast called Simulated Reality- featuring tech leaders, AI experts, and innovative startups of India.