Twenty-three consumer activist groups signed a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) calling for an investigation against YouTube for targeting ads at children.
Groups that signed the complaint included the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, the Center for Digital Democracy, Common Sense, Consumer Action, the Consumer Federation of America, Consumers Union, and the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
According to AFP, “The organizations said that although YouTube claims that the site is only for users 13 and up, Google generates significant profits from kid-targeted advertising on the video-sharing service.”
“According to the complaint, Google collects personal information about minors on YouTube, including location, unique device identifiers, and mobile telephone numbers, and uses that to target advertisements to kids across the internet, apparently without their parents’ consent,” AFP reported. “It noted that YouTube contains child-oriented channels such as ChuChu TV Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs, with millions of subscribers, and that advertisers pay Google a premium to place their ads on a ‘parenting and family’ lineup including channels aimed at children.”
In a statement, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood’s Josh Golin claimed, “For years, Google has abdicated its responsibility to kids and families by disingenuously claiming YouTube — a site rife with popular cartoons, nursery rhymes and toy ads — is not for children under 13.”
“Google profits immensely by delivering ads to kids and must comply with COPPA [Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act],” he continued, while the Center for Digital Democracy’s Jeff Chester alleged YouTube, and its parent company Google, “has acted duplicitously by falsely claiming in its terms of service that YouTube is only for those who are age 13 or older, while it deliberately lured young people into an ad-filled digital playground.”
In response to the complaint, a Google spokesman declared, “protecting kids and families has always been a top priority for us,” and explained, “Because YouTube is not for children, we’ve invested significantly in the creation of the YouTube Kids app to offer an alternative specifically designed for children.”
Despite YouTube’s insistence that YouTube Kids is a safe way for young children to watch videos, investigations have revealed conspiracy theory videos about reptilians, the moon landing, and the Earth’s shape being targeted to children on the app.
Last year, YouTube also removed advertisements from over 50,000 accounts that pretended to be family-friendly and aimed at kids, but instead posted “disturbing” content.