Business Technology

Tuesday 17 September 2019

YouTube to stop comments and personalised ads on videos aimed at kids in bid to crack down on 'predatory behaviour'

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Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

YouTube is to stop all comments and personalised advertising on videos aimed at children.

The move, which is being seen as a major change in how kids are targeted on the internet, comes as YouTube’s parent Google agreed a $170m (€154m) fine with US regulators over having improperly collected personal data on children.

The YouTube action is an extension of its move earlier this year to ban comments from videos featuring younger children. That was part of an effort to crack down on “predatory behaviour” from paedophiles targeting kids by leaving coded comments.

It may also financially hit so-called ‘influencers’ and ‘creators’ who make videos aimed at children hard, as the videos won’t be as lucrative without personalised advertising, comments and notifications.

“Starting in about four months, we will treat data from anyone watching children’s content on YouTube as coming from a child, regardless of the age of the user,” said Susan Wojcicki, YouTube’s CEO. “This means that we will limit data collection and use on videos made for kids only to what is needed to support the operation of the service. We will also stop serving personalised ads on this content entirely and some features will no longer be available on this type of content, like comments and notifications.”

Ms Wojcicki also said that the company will put in place measures to stop YouTube creators getting around the new rules.

”In order to identify content made for kids, creators will be required to tell us when their content falls in this category and we’ll also use machine learning to find videos that clearly target young audiences, for example those that have an emphasis on kids characters, themes, toys, or games.”

Videos focused on teen and child audiences attract billions of monthly views, earning some YouTube videographers millions of euro per year through sponsorship and ads.

In Ireland, Meath woman Kelly Fitzsimons filed accounts last year showing €850,000 earned over a two year period from her child-focused YouTube series ‘Little Kelly Minecraft’. Ms Fitzsimons’ videos garnered over a billion views in that period.

“We know these changes will have a significant business impact on family and kids creators who have been building both wonderful content and thriving businesses,” said Ms Wojcicki. “So we've worked to give impacted creators four months to adjust before changes take effect on YouTube. We recognise this won’t be easy for some creators and are committed to working with them through this transition and providing resources to help them better understand these changes. We are establishing a $100 million fund, disbursed over three years, dedicated to the creation of thoughtful, original children’s content on YouTube and YouTube Kids globally.”

Meanwhile, Google will pay $170m (€154m) to settle allegations that it broke federal law by collecting personal information about children, the US Federal Trade Commission has said.

YouTube had been accused of tracking viewers of children’s channels using cookies without parental consent and using those cookies to deliver million of dollars in targeted advertisements to those viewers.

The settlement with the FTC and the New York attorney general’s office, which will receive $34m (€31m), is the largest since a US law banning collecting information about children under age 13 came into effect in 1998. The law was revised in 2013 to include “cookies,” used to track a person’s internet viewing habits.

However, it is a drop in the ocean of Google’s $39bn (€35bn) quarterly revenues, 85pc of it from sales of ads.

Online Editors

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