COPPA Or Cop Out?

The Death Of Youtube’s “Child Appealing” Creators

Image+courtesy+of+Wikipedia.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Dusk Johnson, Assistant Editor, Designer, Writer

Youtube, a website that most of our generation has grown up with and seen develop into what it is today. The video-based platform has been home to countless content creators, and has been adding more and more features to its service since 2006 when Google bought it for $1.65 million. Even with the entertainment of the gaming, comedy, art, and other communities found on youtube, many creators are about to face a wave of action that could destroy entire channels. If you’re familiar with the platform, you’ll know this isn’t its first run of issues, with many creators having complaints of unwarranted demonetization, copyright claims, and a general battle with the Youtube’s algorithm. This however, puts many creator’s viewer interactions, and even careers, on the line.
“What is it this time?” a regular Youtube user may be thinking. You see Google, the owners of Youtube, have run into a bit of legal trouble- a big blow for any large company. The trouble comes from the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, or COPPA for short. The act was created by the Federal Trade Commission, which issued a $170 million settlement with Google for violating the act- the largest settlement of the act so far. COPPA forbids data collecting from children under the age of 13 entirely. Youtube’s system has since violated this policy seemingly unknowingly (or maybe not). This sounds sensible enough, as children this age are not aware enough to consent to the use of their data, however the main problem comes from the solution COPPA proposed and will be enforcing come January 2020.
On November 13th of 2019, Youtube announced a change in policy, sending an email to their creators that read as follows: “Starting today, all creators are required to tell us if their content is made for kids in order to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and/or other applicable laws…” The message goes on to tell creators about an “audience setting” they are implementing for creators, which would allow for them to mark their own videos, or entire channel as “made for children.” Not so bad right? Well, the issue becomes quite clear as a large fraction of Youtube’s creators (many being artists, crafters, or toy channels) create videos concerning the matter. When a video is marked as “child appealing” it cannot use any data from it’s viewers, including personal ads, and the comment section feature, which Youtube has had since the very beginning. This eliminates both viewer interaction, and any money that the channel may have received from advertisement.
When a creator “incorrectly” categorizes their content for adults, they can be fined up to $42,000 per video for it. If Youtube says it’s for kids, monetization and many other features are swept away like dust, even if said content is not intended for children. Many creators are already aware that Youtube’s ability to determine the intent of a video is not always accurate, this much is obvious based on the vast amount of copyright strikes and demonetizations that have been handed out falsely by the site. Bright colors, cartoons, animation, characters, and toys will all be flags for Youtube to call something “child appealing” even if the channel is intended for all ages. This leaves a lot of artistic and creative channels at risk. Some youtubers have even recently voiced the deletion or inactivity of their channels in the future. For many youtubers, videos act as a main source of income, which they now may no longer be receiving thanks to this policy change. If someone you know, or you yourself are a creator, stay cautious of this change!
Maybe you, like me and other Youtube creators and viewers, believe that this is not the right solution. If so, you can now sign the petition for Youtube to rethink this action. The petition is listed on Change.org as “SAVE Family Friendly Content on Youtube.” Though Change.org petitions have not always been a guaranteed source for actual change, it’s never a bad idea to give it a try. The goal of this petition is to show Youtube the flaws within it’s proposal for change, and potentially save hard working creators from the devastation it would bring them.
Since the beginning of this problem being announced, the FTC has addressed some concern and claimed that they recognize some art and animation to be made for everyone, not children exclusively. The main problem is that automated systems like the ones Youtube uses, may not know the difference, leaving many creative youtube channels burning to the ground with Youtube’s start of a downfall.