- US Senator Edward Markey of Massachusetts has released a public letter calling for stricter regulations on YouTube to ensure child safety.
- YouTube is reportedly under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission for its handling of children’s videos and could face fines for breaking children’s privacy laws.
- YouTube has been rocked by a series of controversies that called attention to how children are using the video platform and revealed gaps in YouTube’s moderation process.
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As the Federal Trade Commission reportedly enters the final stages of an investigation into YouTube, US Senator Edward Markey is calling for major changes to how the Google-owned video site handles children’s content.In a letter dated June 25,Markey asked the FTC to “take all necessary steps to hold YouTube accountable” for potential violations of children’s privacy laws.
Markey is the author of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a federal law introduced in 2000. COPPA requires websites that are designed for children to ask for a parent’s permission when personal data is being collected. In his letter, Markey said that many popular YouTube channels are meant for children, but are not subject to COPPA laws because YouTube claims to be for teens and adults. He specifically mentioned RyanToysReview, YouTube’s highest earning channel with more than 19 million subscribers.
Markey’s letter calls for YouTube to comply with several specific rules:
- Google would be required to stop collecting data from users age 13 or below, and delete all data collected prior to the age of 13, even if the user is now a teenager.
- Unless the site changes to meet COPPA requirements, YouTube would need to introduce new features to detect users under the age of 13 and ban them from the platform.
- YouTube Kids would need to ban targeted and influencer marketing directed at kids. (Which would likely include sponsored videos on Toy Review channels)
- YouTube Kids would need to provide “comprehensive information” on any data that is being collected for internal purposes, including why the data is being collected and who can access it.
- Google would need to submit to a yearly audit from a third-party auditor, and the audit results would be public.
- Google cannot launch any new product or service designed for children without the approval of an independent panel of experts that includes privacy and child development experts.
- Google’s would need to provide the FTC with documents showing compliance when requested.
- Google would need to establish a fund for the development of noncommercial children’s content.
With the FTC investigation already underway, YouTube is reportedly considering shifting all children’s content to YouTube Kids, which could increase their compliance with COPPA. The video platform has been recovering from a number of scandals, including reports that a network of pedophiles generated millions of views on home videos featuring scantily clad or near-nude children.
In February, the FTC found that TikTok violated COPPA by not requiring parental consent before collecting data from users under the age of 13. The startup was hit with a $US5.7 million fine as a result.
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