Google (via YouTube) is rolling out new protections in the coming months for children using the video-streaming platform in the wake of the recent $170 million FTC settlement. As part of that change, personalized ads and comments on children's content will be eliminated, data collection for viewers of children's content will be reduced to the bare minimum required to "support the operation of the service," and content creators will be required to tag children's content as such.
In case you haven't followed the drama regarding things like "Elsagate," the short version is that some content on YouTube presented to children was not adequately moderated or reviewed. As a result, plenty of ostensibly child-friendly, cartoony-looking videos were revealed to contain decidedly not child-appropriate content. With modern parenting eschewing individual attention and oversight for blind trust in third-party content policing and child locks, some kids ended up seeing offensive or inappropriate content on the platform.
Since then, YouTube has been trying to move more of its kid-friendly content to the YouTube Kids app and increase the efforts of manual moderation. It also recently rolled out new content filters for additional age groups, but based on the FTC's decision, that hasn't been enough. To further improve how it handles children's content, YouTube has specifically enumerated five broad changes it plans to make:
- Anyone watching children's content on YouTube will be considered a child, meaning they will reduce data collection down to the minimum necessary to "support the operation of the service" for those viewers at that time.
- Personalized ads will stop running on children's content.
- Comments and notifications will be disabled on children's content.
- Content creators will be required to identify children's content, and videos will also be categorized that way via machine learning.
- Mandatory annual training for the company's "teams" regarding children's protections.
Google isn't just resorting to the stick, though, a carrot has also been dangled for children's content creators on the platform: YouTube will be assembling a $100 million fund "dedicated to the creation of thoughtful, original children’s content on YouTube and YouTube Kids globally." An even bigger ad campaign promoting YouTube Kids is also planned, so if you're already tired of seeing those ads endlessly when you don't even have children, gear up for an even bigger blitz.
The only potentially undefined detail regarding YouTube's announcement is what data will still be collected from viewers of children's content. It's clear that they're aiming to enhance privacy, but we just don't know what is constituted within the minimum to "support the operation of the service," or who gets access to that data outside of YouTube — it really ought to be quantified and spelled out.
These changes will be rolling out "starting in about four months," according to YouTube. Hopefully, a few more specifics regarding the plan can be revealed between now and then.