COPPA Law Cracks Down on YouTube, Scramble for Content Creators


Abigail Quinn, contributor

A recent legal settlement involving Google’s most popular video streaming site, YouTube, has left a record $170 million blemish on the site. The “Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act,” known more popularly as COPPA, has cracked down on YouTube for the illegal collection of children’s personal information through their advertisers.

COPPA, put in place in 1998, was created to prevent advertisers from collecting data on easily persuaded children under the age of 13. Though YouTube is labeled as a PG13 site (unlike their sister app YouTube Kids, made specifically for kids), it has been COPPA compliant for many years.

Despite their compliance with the law, recently lawmakers have been collecting statements from YouTube  representatives to use in argument in a case against the company. Some of the statements collected include but are not limited to:

-“YouTube is today’s leader in reaching children age 6-11 against top TV channels”

-“YouTube is unanimously voted as the favorite website of kids 2-12”

-“YouTube: the new ‘Saturday morning cartoons'”
(quotes gathered via Matthew Patrick)

It’s really no wonder how YouTube got smacked with such a large fine when making careless mistakes and boasting their broad range of viewership.

In response to the lawsuit brought on by these claims, it is now mandatory for all content creators to mark their content as either meant for kids or not meant for kids. This should have been a simple and effective way to avoid a further lawsuit being brought against YouTube, however it isn’t as simple as it appears.

YouTube and the federal trade commission are currently defining “kids content” as follows: intentionally aimed at kids; includes characters, celebrities, or toys that appeal to children, including animated characters or cartoon figures; has a predominantly child audience; contains activities that appeal to children.

You do not have to be immensely involved in YouTube to know this creates a huge issue for creators who do not easily fit into these categories.

Creators make the moral decision to label their videos as not meant for kids, that too comes with a huge backlash. Anything labeled as kids content will potentially lose what is known as “targeted ads,” which make up about 80 to 90 percent of content creators’ revenue.

As many know, money makes the world go round, especially for YouTube, which is in its essence a business. Why not label it as kids content then?

If YouTube runs a creator’s video through their deeply flawed checklist and finds that it is incorrectly labeled, the creator could be charged up to $42,000 per video. For YouTubers who upload about two videos a day, that high of a risk is just something most people aren’t fine with taking.

Content creators desperately need more guidance on how to categorize their content because they are being forced into what is quite honestly a legal guessing game for what could be their entire livelihoods.