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FTC Investigating YouTube Over Child Privacy Concerns

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  • The Federal Trade Commission is reportedly in late stages of a probe into YouTube for allegedly violating children’s privacy and improperly collecting their data, following multiple complaints from privacy advocates.
  • The Washington Post, who first reported the news, says the investigation could result in fines and has already pushed YouTube to speed up discussions about how it handles child content and users.
  • The news follows reports that suggest YouTube is considering moving all children’s content over to the YouTube Kids app, which critics and YouTube insiders have since suggested is unlikely.

FTC Investigation

YouTube’s ongoing issues with child content has sparked an investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, according to a report by the Washington Post.

On Wednesday the Post reported that the FTC was in the advanced stages of an investigation into YouTube for allegedly violating children’s privacy. The news outlet cites four anonymous sources familiar with the investigation and says that the probe could potentially result in a fine.

The investigation was reportedly launched after several complaints from privacy advocates and consumer groups. Those complaints said that the Google-owned company failed to protect kids who use the service and improperly collected their data, which is a violation of the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The 1996 law known as COPPA bars companies from tracking and targetting users under 13.

The probe also follows numerous reports from users and publications that say YouTube’s recommendation feature has allowed predators to abuse the system to prey on children.

The Post says the FTC investigation has pushed YouTube to accelerate internal discussions and changes in regards to how the platform handles child content.

The platform has already recently disabled comments on videos featuring minors and banned minors from live-streaming video without an adult present in the video. It has also limited its algorithms from recommending content that features minors in a sexualized or violent situation, even if that content does not violate the company’s policies.

Moving Content to YouTube Kids

Earlier this week, reports from Bloomberg and the Wall Street Journal suggested that the company is looking at taking stronger measures to address its issues.

On Wednesday the Journal reported that YouTube was considering moving all children’s content over to its standalone YouTube Kids app. However, such a change would be hard to implement because of the overwhelming amount of content uploaded to YouTube and because it would potentially cost the company a huge loss in advertising revenue.

On top of that, Bloomberg’s report cited internal sources at YouTube who said that kids “tend to shift over to YouTube’s main site before they hit 13.” Bloomberg also pointed out that the Kids app only gets a small fraction of the audience the main platform brings in, which is sure to affect the content creators who would be forced to shift over.

Content featuring children is a huge part of YouTube that isn’t just toy unboxings, nursery rhyme videos, and skits. Family vloggers on the platform are becoming more and more massive and as the Verge pointed out, some creators often release collaborations with children. Jake Paul for instance often releases videos featuring five-year-old Tydus Talbott, who is also known online as “Mini Jake Paul.”

The Kids app has also faced a ton of backlash in the past for moderation issues in a controversy often known as “Eslagate.” At the time, YouTube was criticized for allowing content on the Kids app that included sexual situations or language, discussions of suicide, and dangerous behaviors in cartoons and skits created for children.

A person close to YouTube suggested moving all content featuring children to the Kids app is unlikely, but said other changes were being discussed.

“We consider lots of ideas for improving YouTube, and some remain just that — ideas. Others, we develop and launch, like our restrictions to minors live streaming or updated hate speech policy,” Andrea Faville, a YouTube spokeswoman, said in a statement to various outlets.

Policymakers Call for More Action

However, many are still unsatisfied with how the platform is dealing with these issues. Some policymakers have already begun responding to news of the investigation. In a press release issued Wednesday, Sen. Edward Markey (D-MA) said the investigation “into YouTube’s treatment of children online overdue.”

“It is no secret that kids flock to YouTube every day, but the company has yet to take the necessary steps to protect its youngest users. I am pleased to see reports that the FTC is working to hold YouTube accountable for its actions.”

One of the biggest requests that YouTube has received from critics and policymakers is to stop recommending videos that contain children altogether. However, YouTube has hit back against that idea.

Earlier this month a spokesperson told the New York Times that a move like that would hurt creators. Instead, the company chose to limit “recommendations on videos that it deems as putting children at risk,” the Times reported.

It’s unclear as of now what types of penalties YouTube could face if the FTC finds issues with its current data collection practices. However, the FTC has placed a bigger focus on child privacy in recent years. This past February, the agency fined the app TikTok, formerly known as Music.ly, a record $5.7 million for violating child privacy laws. In that case, the FTC found that the app had allowed children under 13 to use the site with little enforcement of its age minimum requirement.


See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The Wall Street Journal) (Bloomberg)





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Instagram Restricts Posts Promoting Diet and Cosmetic Surgery Products

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  • Instagram is restricting users under the age of 18 from viewing ads promoting weight loss and cosmetic procedures. The platform is also removing posts that make miraculous claims about dieting.
  • Actress and body positivity activist Jameela Jamil celebrated the policy change.
  • Jamil has criticized celebrities like Kim Kardashian for promoting these types of products in the past, saying it has a negative impact on young followers. 

Instagram Changes Policy

Instagram has changed a community guideline policy to prevent its younger users from seeing content that promotes diet and weight-loss products.

Users who are known to the platform to be under the age of 18 will no longer be allowed to view posts for dieting products or cosmetic procedures that include a listed price or incentive to purchase. The site will also remove all posts that make a “miraculous” claim about weight loss and include a coupon code or other commercial elements. 

According to Adam Mosseri, the head of Instagram, this policy became effective when it was announced on Wednesday and will be applied on both Instagram and Facebook.

Promoting these kinds of products has become a major part of influencer culture on the social media site. Prominent celebrities like Kim and Khloe Kardashian, Kylie Jenner and Cardi B have all received backlash for advertising highly-criticized rapid-weight-loss remedies. 

Screenshot via Instagram @KimKardashian

Instagram’s Public Policy Manager, Emma Collins, spoke to the Evening Standard about how this policy change will affect these big names. 

“If [a Kardashian’s] Instagram post is pulled into the policy of promoting diet products or procedures for sale it will be removed,” she said. “The Kardashians are people we continue to have collaborative conversations with, they’ll be made aware of the change.”

Collins also released a statement addressing the larger reasons behind the change, saying Instagram wants their site to be a “positive place.”

“We want Instagram to be a positive place for everyone that uses it and this policy is part of our ongoing work to reduce the pressure that people can sometimes feel as a result of social media,” she said.

Some Twitter users have shared that they have already been blocked from old posts by Kim Kardashian due to the new age barrier. Instagram is also encouraging users to report content they feel violates the new policy, and says they will be adding new reporting tools specifically for this matter. 

Jameela Jamil Responds

The decision was applauded by many, including actress and body positivity activist Jameela Jamil. Jamil has led the social media charge against these weight-loss tactics by frequently calling out stars like the Kardashians for promoting them to their younger fans. Jamil has spilled the skinny tea on what some of the products might actually do to your body, including cause sicknesses like diarrhea.  She started the social media campaign “I Weigh” in 2018 to promote body positivity and inclusivity on Instagram. 

Jamil called Instagram’s new policy “huge news” in a post celebrating the matter.

“@i_weigh are changing the world together,” she wrote. “After a bunch of shouting, screaming, and petitioning… we have managed to get the attention of the people at the top, and they have heard us and want to protect us. And this is just the beginning of our efforts.” 

The Good Place star went on to say that she had been working with people at Instagram all year to accomplish this and praised them for the passion.

View this post on Instagram

THIS IS HUGE NEWS. @i_weigh are changing the world together. After a bunch of shouting, screaming, and petitioning… we have managed to get the attention of the people at the top, and they have heard us and want to protect us. And this is just the beginning of our efforts. As of now, if you’re under 18, you will no longer be exposed to any diet/detox products, and for all other ages; all fad products that have bogus, unrealistic claims will be taken down and easy to report. I’ve been working with Instagram all year towards this, who were amazing to deal with, and they expressed that they passionately care about creating a safer space for us all online. This happened so much faster than I expected and I’m so proud and happy and relieved. WELL DONE to the many people who have been working towards this huge change. This is a mass effort. This is an extraordinary win that is going to make a big difference. Influencers have to be more responsible. ❤️

A post shared by Jameela Jamil (@jameelajamilofficial) on

//www.instagram.com/embed.js

“This happened so much faster than I expected and I’m so proud and happy and relieved,” Jamil added. “WELL DONE to the many people who have been working towards this huge change. This is a mass effort. This is an extraordinary win that is going to make a big difference. Influencers have to be more responsible.”

On Twitter, Jamil also implied that with this victory in hand, she is going to continue fighting. 

See what others are saying: (Evening Standard) (The Guardian) (The Verge)

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YouTube Will No Longer Count Ad Views for 24-Hour Music Records

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  • YouTube said it will no longer count views from paid advertising in its calculations for YouTube Music charts and 24-hour debut records. 
  • The move came after YouTube did not congratulate Indian rapper Badshah for seemingly breaking the single-day viewing record.
  • Badshah admitted to paying for promotional ads and several media reports found that the practice was actually commonly used in the music industry to inflate views.
  • Critics argued that the strategy created financial hurdles for new artists and raised questions about real popularity. 

Ad Views No Longer Count 

YouTube announced a new policy Friday that changes the way the platform counts views from purchased ads in its one-day record reports, a practice that has faced massive criticism over the last few months

“In an effort to provide more transparency to the industry and align with the policies of official charting companies such as Billboard and Nielsen, we are no longer counting paid advertising views on YouTube in the YouTube Music Charts calculation,” the company said in a blog post. 

“Artists will now be ranked based on view counts from organic plays,” it continued.  

The change extends only to YouTube’s music charts and the reporting of 24-hour views. Advertising money can still be put towards increasing views, and the public view counter will still reflect views that were paid for.

Why? 

Before the changes, many artists and record labels would pay to run songs as YouTube ads, which boosted viewership and increased the artist’s odds of topping the YouTube Music charts. 

However, YouTube executives might have decided to rethink how it records single-day views after it faced backlash over its former policy earlier this year. 

YouTube faced intense scrutiny in July when Indian rapper Badshah racked up 75 million views in 24 hours on his music video for the song “Paagal.” The numbers seemingly broke the single-day viewing record set by K-pop superstars BTS in April, but YouTube did not acknowledge the achievement.

YouTube has a history of honoring artists for setting viewing records. It congratulated musicians like BTS, Blackpink, Taylor Swift, and Ariana Grande when they set records on the site, so naturally, many were confused by the company’s silence. 

Badshah made no secret that his team spent heavily on promotional ads, which he admitted to on Instagram. He even suggested YouTube’s lack of praise presented a double standard between the way the site treats mainstream global superstars like Swift and Grande, and artists who aren’t as popular in the West. 

As of now, it’s unclear how many paid-ad views make up the total views for Badshah’s video, which currently sits at over 161 million. YouTube’s spokesperson told Forbes that the video-sharing platform doesn’t “comment on specific view sources for videos.”

“We have always taken into account a number of factors, including the volume of paid advertising views on YouTube,” they added. “Based on our long-time criteria, Badshah did not qualify for our 24 hour debut records list.”

However, for many people, the interesting issue became the focus on the ad purchasing policy itself. The practice created doubts about the real popularity of the videos and brought new attention to industry marketing tactics. It also sparked conversations about how this tactic changes the landscape for new talent and creates a financial barrier for growth. 

A report from Rolling Stone said that the practice was common in the Latin Music industry, reporting that companies like Sony Latin and Universal Latin have been known to shell out between $20,000 to $60,000 in the first 24 hours. In more extreme cases, the companies would spend as much as $100,000, which could result in more than 12 million additional views.

“There is definitely money being spent on views,” Tomas Cookman, founder and CEO of the independent Latin label Nacional told Rolling Stone.Is it fair to pay to have all those perceived views on a video? Probably not. But any time there’s a system, there’s going to be some manipulation of that system. And whoever tells you there isn’t is probably doing it.”  

The report also said the ad strategy was likely more utilized outside of the U.S. because of the cost difference. One Latin label employee estimated that $1,000 on ads might bring in 250,000 to 500,000 views from countries in Latin and South America, meanwhile, the cost per view in the U.S would be five to ten times as much. The cheapest views reportedly came from countries like Turkey, the Philippines, and India. 

YouTube’s changes won’t necessarily mean fewer video ads since ads still allow for greater exposure. However, it could push the industry to think critically about how to place those ads for long-term success, rather than just spam users with them for the first 24 hours to inflate views and create a false sense of popularity.

See what others are saying: (Rolling Stone) (Bloomberg) (The Verge)


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PewDiePie Cancels 50K ADL Donation

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  • PewDiePie has decided not to gift $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League, a group devoted to fighting anti-Semitism and hate, after his fans spread conspiracy theories about his previous plans to donate.
  • Fans online believed he was blackmailed into writing a check to the group, as they associate it with YouTube’s initiative to take town hate speech content.
  • After seeing the online backlash, PewDiePie said he chose the organization because he was advised to, and will instead donate the money to a group he feels excited about.

PewDiePie Calls Donation a “Mistake”

One day after pledging $50,000 to the Anti-Defamation League, a group devoted to fighting against anti-Semitism and bigotry, PewDiePie is taking back the offer. 

Felix Kjellberg, better known as PewDiePie, the most popular solo YouTube creator, uploaded a video to his channel on Thursday announcing his decision. When Kjellberg first said he would be donating to the ADL in a video celebrating 100 million subscribers, he was met with mixed reactions from his fans. 

“I made the mistake of picking a charity that I was advised, instead of picking a charity that I’m personally passionate about,” Kjellberg said in the video. “Which is 100 percent my fault. Usually, when I pick a charity I take my time, I find a charity that I’m really excited about and actually passionate to donate to.”

The ADL’s Reputation Among Fans

The ADL’s mission is to “stop the defamation of the Jewish people, and to secure justice and fair treatment to all.” Its site also says it fights threats to democracy, including cyberhate, bullying, and biases in schools and in the criminal justice system, among other issues.

Many of Kjellberg’s fans and other YouTube users, however, attribute the ADL to content removal on the platform. YouTube has worked with the group on its initiative to take down content involving hate speech and online extremism. Some of these fans see it as censorship.

The ADL also applauded Disney for ending its relationship with Kjellberg in 2017 after the YouTuber uploaded content with anti-Semitic imagery. Kjellberg apologized for his video and took the content in question down.

Still, fans did not understand why he would make a donation to them after this incident. Many spread conspiracy theories on Twitter that he was being blackmailed into making the donation.

PewDiePie Seeks to Address Situations like Christchurch

At the time, Kjellberg said he “wanted to show publicly that I can move past it and move on.” In a statement on Twitter, he also added he wanted to distance himself from events like the shooting in Christchurch, where the alleged gunman said his name before killing 51 people and injuring 49 more. His statement has since been deleted, but he elaborated on this idea in Thursday’s video.

Twitter: @pewdiepie

“To be fair, I saw it as an opportunity to put an end to these alt-right claims that have been thrown against me. It wasn’t to try to clear my name or save grace, if it was I would have done it years ago,” Kjellberg said.

“But after the Christchurch tragedy, I felt a responsibility to do something about it because it’s no longer just about me, it affected other people in a way and I’m not okay with that.”

He added that he has struggled with learning how to address this situation, and ultimately decided this was not the answer. He later said that he saw information surface about the group that did not “fit at all.” Instead, he will donate to a different charity.

“It really doesn’t feel genuine for me to proceed with the donation at this point and I, instead, I actually wanted to take my time, keep the intent that I had, but just doing it with the right charity and doing it properly,” he said.

The ADL gave a statement to Fox News on Thursday about the incident, saying they only knew as much as the public did. 

“ADL learned about the potential donation from Felix Kjellberg when everyone else did: when he made the announcement on his channel earlier this week,” the statement read. “We have not received any communication from him beyond his public posts.”

See what others are saying: (Fox News) (Forbes) (The Verge)

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