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Let's Talk: COPPA And How It Will Affect YouTube

A lot of you are probably in the know that starting January 2020, the Federal Trade Commission will begin implementing COPPA to YouTube's Terms of Service. For those that are out of the loop, you're probably wondering what is COPPA and why should you or I even care. The reason that I care is because there are fans that make YouTube videos for a living that will be heavily affected by COPPA and I want to help support them any way possible even if it means getting the word out. To explain, we are gonna have to start from the very beginning.

What is COPPA?

Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is a United States federal law that was enacted on October 21, 1998 and went into effect April 21, 2000 to help protect kids in the age range of 13 and under from websites that would collect personal data. It details everything that a website must include in the privacy policy, when and how to seek verified consent from a parent or guardian, and what kinds of responsibilities for the operator to protect children's online privacy and safety including restrictions on marketing to those that are 13 and under.

What many websites tend to do, including social media websites, is that while children under 13 can give out their personal information with the consent of the parents they would just disallow any children under 13 from using their services due to the cost and work involved to comply with the law.

YouTube vs the FTC and COPPA

It is well known by everyone that YouTube is the largest video sharing platform on the internet. People can post videos of their dog or cat doing cute things, discuss politics and world events, do a tutorial on a video game, and share their opinions on entertainment and media. YouTubers can make money from making videos as long as they have personalized ads turned on.

What is personalized ads? Personalized ads are a type of advertising that is based on a certain demographic just from gathering information from the user and his/her browsing history.

For example, Pokémon Sword/Shield is the most talked about game right now and you decide to read articles or watch videos to gain more information about that game. With that information, it tells advertisers "Hey, this person has been browsing stuff on Pokémon so let's advertise the new games to this person." Now, you start seeing ads for Pokémon Sword/Shield while you're watching a video that may not even be about Pokémon. At the same time, the YouTuber who made the video that ad was played on gets a cut of that ad money.

With me so far? If so, great. If not, then you will get it shortly.

On September 4th, 2019, Google and YouTube was slapped with a $170 million fine for illegally collecting and tracking personal data directly from child-directed channels, websites, and online services. Guess who YouTube passed the buck off to? You guessed it, they pinned the blame on YouTubers, despite the fact that YouTubers can't actually see the demographic on the age of the viewers. Since the buck is passed over to the YouTubers, new regulations with COPPA is going to be implemented in January 2020.

The new guideline is that now YouTubers must determine if their videos are child-directed videos and it must be done for every video including ones that were uploaded from years ago before January 2020. If you have a video that you think is not child-directed and the FTC thinks otherwise then the penalty would be $42,530 for every video. So what is considered child-directed in a video?

This is what is considered child-directed:

  • the subject matter

  • visual content

  • the use of animated characters or child-oriented activities and incentives

  • the kind of music or other audio content

  • the age of models

  • the presence of child celebrities or celebrities who appeal to children

  • language or other characteristics of the site

  • whether advertising that promotes or appears on the site is directed to children

  • competent and reliable empirical evidence about the age of the audience.

Really vague details, right? The FTC can slap a fine on your video if you use bright colors or using words like "fun", if you play video games, and even certain movies and movie characters, like Godzilla, can be labeled as child-directed. The guideline under the FTC even states that if you are unsure about your video being child-directed then you should consult with a lawyer. Let me ask you guys. Do you think a lawyer has any time to look at your video and say yes or no to whether your video is child-directed or not? Do you think that YouTubers can even afford a lawyer? Luckily, there are lawyers that make YouTube videos that are going to Washington D.C. to talk with the FTC and represent everybody on YouTube.

Let's say that your videos are child-directed and you manage to correct your video uploads. What happens then? Well, your videos will not get any ads, there is no like/dislike button, and no comment section. You will not see any money coming from those videos. YouTubers rely on personalized ads for income and they can't control who watches their videos.

What is even more scary is that there are not enough people talking about it. There are people that are about to lose everything in January because they either don't know about it or they think that it won't affect them and choose to ignore it. Perhaps it won't be as bad, but every person on YouTube can't just trust willy-nilly that YouTube and the FTC knows what they're doing and everything will be fine. There are independent commentators on YouTube that are being censored and demonetized just because YouTube doesn't agree with their political stances. Imagine that on a much larger scale in 2020. All of your favorite YouTube channels no matter who they are are going to get more than a slap in the face by the FTC.

That is why I am talking about this. There are people on YouTube that all of us follow, both Godzilla fans and non-Godzilla fans alike, that need everyone's help. I don't want to see our favorite YouTubers disappear just because YouTube and Google screwed up. Unless the FTC changes something before 2020, I can see a huge decline for YouTube in terms of video uploads and YouTubers leaving. Not all of the YouTubers will leave, but a huge chunk of them due to the COPPA regulations. And you can help make that change. The FTC has opened up a comment section for everyone to give input on COPPA to clear up any confusion. They have been updating what is and what is not classified as child-directed videos little by little because people have been sending them comments. If you want your voice heard then now is the time to do so. Their ear is open if you choose to use it. If you are going to make a comment, be polite and explain why COPPA is not good for YouTube or how it can be changed. The deadline to make a comment is December 9th, 2019. Click on the link below if you want your voice heard. If you read this far, then thank you for taking the time and reading this. Make sure to follow me on my Facebook and Twitter pages for more news, reviews, and discussions.

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