YouTube is reassessing its kids content and offerings to get ahead of a potential FTC crackdown

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YouTube mayoverhaul how it distributes children’s content across its main platform due to a late-stage FTC investigation into its practices surrounding collection and use of data on children under the age of 13, per The Wall Street Journal.

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The investigation began last year after both privacy advocates and consumer groups filed multiple complaints arguing that the Google-owned streaming platform had violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which forbids tracking and targeting users under age 13.

To get out ahead of a potential crackdown, YouTube is reportedly considering shifting all children’s content to its additional YouTube Kids platform, which doesn’t collect data on viewers. This preventive measure could ease pressure from the FTC and also protect kids from seeing inappropriate or harmful videos on the main platform — a separate issue YouTube has drawn public ire for.

If YouTube does shift all children’s content to YouTube Kids, it would likely see a significant loss in viewership on its main platform, and a corresponding drop in ad revenue:

  • Most kids watch YouTube — and they’re likely doing so via the main app, not YouTube Kids. While it’s hard to ascertain exactly how many kids are watching YouTube — Googleclaims that YouTube isn’t for kids — it’s very likely that most are. In fact,97% of kids in the US have used YouTube, according to Insight Strategy Group. In the last count in 2016, there were74 million children in the US, meaning about 72 million youngsters have accessed the platform from the US alone. Further,81% of parents with children 11 years old or younger say they let their child watch videos on YouTube, per Pew Research Center. By comparison, only about20 million people worldwide use YouTube Kids each week. In a recent report fromBloomberg, YouTube employees disclosed that most kids move over from YouTube Kids to the mainstream platform earlier than 13 — most commonly at age 7, in fact. And once kids migrate to the main app, they rarely go back.
  • Kids represent a huge addressable market. There are about 130 million digitally savvy kids across the globe, and advertisers are fully aware of this: PwC projects that digital ad spend on kids content alone will hit$1.7 billion by 2021. Brands, likeMattel, are pursuing media and entertainment routes to appeal to the tiny consumers, from interactive shows to gaming and live-action experiences. If YouTube removes its kid’s content from the general platform, it might lose its grip on some of that $1.7 billion. While there are still advertisements on YouTube Kids, the value prop is much lower than on the main platform: The ban on data collection means they’re not targeted, and they alsolack a click-through feature to facilitate purchases via external sites.

YouTube is making these changes to its site before FTC demands are handed down, following the preemptive strategies taken by other tech leaders around regulation.Tech execs have recently publicly professed support for regulation, along with a desire to help shape it.

For example, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg inked anop-ed ahead of hearings that he not only believed Facebook needed to be regulated, but that he would welcome the opportunity to collaborate in the formation of that legislation.

And Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey likewise put hissupport behind regulators, saying he believed the role of tech should be to act as educators and help governments and legislators build out the best guidelines possible. YouTube’s potential actions could be read as a similar attempt to govern itself on its own terms — especially as its parent Googlestares down regulatory scrutiny of its own.

Such changes could also enable YouTube to kill two birds with one stone by helping it quell concerns about the safety of its platform for children. Earlier this year, YouTube came under fire for pedophilic comments on videos featuring children, leading it tobancomments on such videos.

And in Q1 2019 alone, YouTube removed over800,000 videos for violations of its child safety policy. But with the sheer volume of uploads to its platform — as thissite shows, on a per second basis — it’s likely impossible for it to guarantee total protection for kids. Relegating all children’s content to a dedicated platform won’t make those issues disappear, but it could make them easier to handle.

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