Oversight Subcommittee Launches Investigation into Predatory Advertisement Practices at YouTube Kids

Apr 6, 2021
Press Release
“YouTube does not go far enough to protect children online”

Washington, D.C. (Apr. 6, 2021)—Today, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy, sent a letter to YouTube requesting documents and information about the YouTube Kids platform amid concerns about content quality, advertisement practices, and the impact on children.  

 

“YouTube Kids, serves an audience of children, but it appears to be serving up inappropriate, low-education, highly commercial content.  I believe that may be ascribable to the advertisement-based business model and reliance on free uploads of user-generated videos without adequate quality control,” said Chairman Krishnamoorthi.  “YouTube profits from this disservice of children with more paid ads and more corporate revenue.”

 

The Subcommittee has concerns about the quality of content and the process by which content is made available to children on YouTube Kids.  YouTube Kids spends no time or effort determining the appropriateness of content before it becomes available for children to watch.  YouTube allows content creators to self-designate content as appropriate for children, and only asks creators to consider factors including “the subject matter of the video, whether the video has an emphasis on kids characters, themes, toys or games, and more.”

 

“As many parents know, YouTube Kids can be a useful tool to pacify and entertain children—and, we wish, to educate.  However, YouTube appears to be exploiting children by serving them a non-stop stream of low-quality, commercial content,” wrote Subcommittee Chairman Krishnamoorthi.  “More must be done to protect children from exposure to marketing and too much screen time.”

 

According to the public health experts at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there is no place for commercial ads to children younger than seven years of age.  AAP firmly recommended:  “Ban all commercial advertising to children younger than 7 years, and limit advertising to older children and teenagers.

 

Targeted advertising has historically made up a large part of the advertisements on YouTube for all consumers, regardless of age.  However, since September 4, 2019, YouTube is no longer able to conduct targeted advertising to children following the $170 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission regarding allegations that the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act was violated by collecting and selling data from children without parental permission. 

 

“After the mandated changes, ads may be reaching children in other concerning manners.  It appears that a high volume of ‘made for kids’ videos are smuggling in hidden marketing and advertising with product placements by children’s influencers,” added Krishnamoorthi.

 

The Subcommittee requested the information regarding YouTube Kids in the United States market by April 20, 2021.

 

Click here to read today’s letter to YouTube.

 

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117th Congress