It's no secret that YouTube repeatedly finds themselves in trouble with one problem or another. Whether it be drive-by cryptominers in advertising or racism from its young comedians, there always seems to be a controversy going on with the network.
One of the repeated issues the company has experienced revolves around how they interact with kids. Previously, in their YouTube Kids app, their algorithms began allowing non-family friendly content to appear. In addition, on videos that are family friendly, incredibly sexual comments were appearing, as well. That ended with the company changing their policies, including curating the content manually, as opposed to by computer.
This week, YouTube's trouble with kids has increased. A collection of advocacy groups, numbering over 20, has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission claiming that YouTube has knowingly violated the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (Coppa). The law was passed in 1998 and expanded in 2012, and requires that companies that collect information about children acquire parental permission first. This law is the reason why many websites, including YouTube, require you to be 13 years old or older to use the service.
In the case of YouTube, their terms of service state that by using the service you agree that you are at least 13 years old, with the exception being YouTube Kids. The complaint, however, asserts that YouTube and parent Google are fully aware that kids under the age of 13 are using the service, including creating YouTube accounts, and willfully collect information about these kids and their browsing history without parental consent.
The group has plenty of proof of this, simply by looking at some of the videos on the site and the continuation of video trends specifically featuring children. However, the real problem that YouTube will be facing is the fact that the company has been running ads specifically targeted at younger audiences, on the primary service and not YouTube Kids. If they can convince the FTC of these facts, which seems fairly straight-forward, Google with almost certainly be facing another round of fines and a forced change to their business processes. More importantly, though, it will create a better environment for kids who are, without question, using the site.