My last few posts, ironically, have been about YouTube and how awesome it has been to be a part of the Creator community: sharing our joys and deepest sorrows with you during our most intimate moments.
From fertility treatments to birth vlogs and now videos that highlight our favorite products, educational resources and family vlogs.
That could all be changing in 2020 under the new COPPA regulations. Here’s a video explaining the new changes:
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), is the global gold standard in data privacy rules for children. Though the law is 20 years old, the momentum for COPPA enforcement has only increased due to heightened consumer awareness of privacy breaches and precedents set in litigation against ad buyers and sellers. In September 2019, for example, YouTube received a $170 million fine for COPPA violations. iab.com
This leaves a lot of ambiguity in the Creator crowd, and frankly, fear. An analogy has been made of YouTube being the barrel and creators being the fish – what’s stopping the FTC and COPPA from going after small creators?
YouTube is issuing compliance warnings to creators after being hit with a huge fine of $170 million, and specifying that creators will be holding the bag for future fines associated with their own channels.
For family vlog channels like mine, which seem to be in a grey area, this is disconcerting.
I did a scan of my own channel using YouTube’s COPPA tool, after spending time this afternoon marking each one of my videos appropriately as either made for kids or not made for kids. The “learning machine” which YouTube speaks of, had disagreed with me.
In fact, the learning machine found that nearly two percent of my videos were supposedly marketed and directed toward children, after I made my own determinations (these are review videos I made for fellow Amazon consumers and online shoppers, and NOT intended for children). YouTube has categorized these videos “for” me and I have a chance to appeal, which I may. But honestly, I’ll probably just mark them as Kid Safe and take down the ads, to err on the side of caution
However, as the description or thumbnail or video contains one or more of those factors, it means that if the FTC were keen on it, I could be fined around $40K PER VIDEO for running an advertisement on any of these videos. So for now, I make zero advertising dollars on these flagged partnership ads which contain child friendly products.
Language that kids use such as “cool” or “ask your parents” are terms liable to get your videos or channel flagged. The machines are looking and listening to it all!
How is it determined that “cool” is a kids word? So many questions!
Furthermore, having too many videos like this can cause the supposedly “smart machine” to disable my channel. The FTC could fine me personally.
I only found these videos by doing a COPPA compliance scan. You can find this at the top of the creator studio, as a “COPPA Center” action button, or here on the TubeBuddy extension:
So, if the FTC decided, they could bring a case against me, which would at the very least require a lawyer on my end. One option is to mark all of my videos as Made For Kids (but they aren’t – they are for LGBT adults with information on fertility options).
Another option is to mark each video during the upload process (keeping in mind whether or not I have a family pet present, or anything else that can cause children to be interested, else risk a fine). I could also wait until after uploading them as not made for kids and then run the scanner tool – but that could be considered a risk.
Review videos, thumbnails with bright colors, presence of anyone under 13 years old, showing a pet, or a variety of other vague rules could get us busted if we don’t properly mark videos or set our channels as For Kids or Not For Kids (Leaving my neurosis to consistently wonder OH SHIT, did I say the kid-friendly word COOL in that vlog?).
Even with this regulation, kids will still see the same or similar ads on YouTube!
Setting a channel as kid friendly means that creators and viewers alike are unable to post in the comments section. It means up to 90 percent loss in ad revenue per video, and other monetary consequences for vloggers. It means these marked videos won’t appear in suggested lists, and you will not be able to choose personalized page advertisements.
Creators who don’t want their channels flagged as “for kids” must refrain from using music, animation, toys, characters, colorful or fast moving graphics that kids find interesting…the list of absurdities goes on – oh, and keep in mind that KID is a term that varies by country, and you have a global audience on the video platform.
I absolutely love vlogging, but I am nervous that our freedom of expression is getting taken away by these supposed learning machines and the FTC. I am all for protecting kids online, but it seems that the responsibility and pressure being put on creators.
As I continue seeing family vloggers leave the platform, channels that have been on far longer than the five years we have, I have been keeping my eye out for an alternative solution that will let us stay connected with you. Juggernauts and other long time vloggers have founded Story Fire and other platforms as an alternative to YouTube, but I just didn’t feel it was a good place (yet?) for the types of content I’m creating and Story Fire in particular is still in Beta.
For now, I will no longer be posting our educational YouTube videos or Early Childhood Education content to our family vlog channel due to COPPA laws – you can find those here on the daily blogs and site pages at MommaAMommaB.com – they will remain unsearchable on YouTube without a link. Review videos may ultimately move to a new channel.
Our vlogs are being backed up to the cloud as we speak, so we are resting assured tonight and staying hopeful that in 2020 we will see YouTube clarify vague details and assist creators behind the scenes as much as possible.
If not, then at least we have our memories preserved, and it was a good run!
Parents who are concerned about privacy issues can use YouTube Kids. If parents don’t want advertisements, YouTube Premium is available for a monthly fee.
YouTube comments shown on this page were taken from the comments section of the posted video by YouTube Creators
Creators face COPPA fines up to $42,530 per video, yet the regulation and definition of “child-directed” is vague. The FTC needs to provide creators with enforcement clarity.