- 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.
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)
Hackers Hit Twitch Again, This Time Replacing Backgrounds With Image of Jeff Bezos
The hack appears to be a form of trolling, though it’s possible that the infiltrators were able to uncover a security flaw while reviewing Twitch’s newly-leaked source code.
Hackers targeted Twitch for a second time this week, but rather than leaking sensitive information, the infiltrators chose to deface the platform on Friday by swapping multiple background images with a photo of former Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
According to those who saw the replaced images firsthand, the hack appears to have mostly — and possibly only — affected game directory headers. Though the incident appears to be nothing more than a surface-level prank, as Amazon owns Twitch, it could potentially signal greater security flaws.
For example, it’s possible the hackers could have used leaked internal security data from earlier this week to discover a network vulnerability and sneak into the platform.
The latest jab at the platforms came after Twitch assured its users it has seen “no indication” that their login credentials were stolen during the first hack. Still, concerns have remained regarding the potential for others to now spot cracks in Twitch’s security systems.
It’s also possible the Bezos hack resulted from what’s known as “cache poisoning,” which, in this case, would refer to a more limited form of hacking that allowed the infiltrators to manipulate similar images all at once. If true, the hackers likely would not have been able to access Twitch’s back end.
The photo changes only lasted several hours before being returned to their previous conditions.
First Twitch Hack
Despite suspicions and concerns, it’s unclear whether the Bezos hack is related to the major leak of Twitch’s internal data that was posted to 4chan on Wednesday.
That leak exposed Twitch’s full source code — including its security tools — as well as data on how much Twitch has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019.
It also revealed Amazon’s at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library, codenamed Vapor, which would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.
Even though Twitch has said its login credentials appear to be secure, it announced Thursday that it has reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Users are still being urged to change their passwords and update or implement two-factor authentication if they haven’t already.
Twitch Blames Server Configuration Error for Hack, Says There’s No Indication That Login Info Leaked
The platform also said full credit card numbers were not reaped by hackers, as that data is stored externally.
Login and Credit Card Info Secure
Twitch released a security update late Wednesday claiming it had seen “no indication” that users’ login credentials were stolen by hackers who leaked the entire platform’s source code earlier in the day.
“Full credit card numbers are not stored by Twitch, so full credit card numbers were not exposed,” the company added in its announcement.
The leaked data, uploaded to 4chan, includes code related to the platform’s security tools, as well as exact totals of how much it has individually paid every single streamer on the platform since August 2019.
Early Thursday, Twitch also announced that it has now reset all stream keys “out of an abundance of caution.” Streamers looking for their new keys can visit a dashboard set up by the platform, though users may need to manually update their software with the new key before being able to stream again depending on what kind of software they use.
As far as what led to the hackers being able to steal the data, Twitch blamed an error in a “server configuration change that was subsequently accessed by a malicious third party,” confirming that the leak was not the work of a current employee who used internal tools.
Will Users Go to Other Streaming Platforms?
While no major creators have said they are leaving Twitch for a different streaming platform because of the hack, many small users have either announced their intention to leave Twitch or have said they are considering such a move.
It’s unclear if the leak, coupled with other ongoing Twitch controversies, will ultimately lead to a significant user exodus, but there’s little doubt that other platforms are ready and willing to leverage this hack in the hopes of attracting new users.
At least one big-name streamer has already done as much, even if largely only presenting the idea as a playful jab rather than with serious intention.
“Pretty crazy day today,” YouTube’s Valkyrae said on a stream Wednesday while referencing a tweet she wrote earlier the day.
“YouTube is looking to sign more streamers,” that tweet reads.
“I mean, they are! … No shade to Twitch… Ah! Well…” Valkyrae said on stream before interrupting herself to note that she was not being paid by YouTube to make her comments.
The Entirety of Twitch Has Been Leaked Online, Including How Much Top Creators Earn
The data dump, which could be useful for some of Twitch’s biggest competitors, could signify one of the most encompassing platform leaks ever.
Massive Collection of Data Leaked
Twitch’s full source code was uploaded to 4chan Wednesday morning after it was obtained by hackers.
Among the 125 GB of stolen data is information revealing that Amazon, which owns Twitch, has at least partially developed plans for a cloud-based gaming library. That library, codenamed Vapor, would directly compete with the massively popular library known as Steam.
With Amazon being the all-encompassing giant that it is, it’s not too surprising that it would try to develop a Steam rival, but it’s eyecatching news nonetheless considering how much the release of Vapor could shake up the market.
The leaked data also showcased exactly how much Twitch has paid its creators, including the platform’s top accounts, such as the group CriticalRole, as well as steamers xQcOW, Tfue, Ludwig, Moistcr1tikal, Shroud, HasanAbi, Sykkuno, Pokimane, Ninja, and Amouranth.
These figures only represent payouts directly from Twitch. Each creator mentioned has made additional money through donations, sponsorships, and other off-platform ventures. Sill, the information could be massively useful for competitors like YouTube Gaming, which is shelling out big bucks to ink deals with creators.
Data related to Twitch’s internal security tools, as well as code related to software development kits and its use of Amazon Web Services, was also released with the hack. In fact, so much data was made public that it could constitute one of the most encompassing platform dumps ever.
Streamer CDawgVA, who has just under 500,000 subscribers on Twitch, tweeted about the severity of the data breach on Wednesday.
“I feel like calling what Twitch just experienced as “leak” is similar to me shitting myself in public and trying to call it a minor inconvenience,” he wrote. “It really doesn’t do the situation justice.”
Despite that, many of the platform’s top streamers have been quite casual about the situation.
“Hey, @twitch EXPLAIN?”xQc tweeted. Amouranth replied with a laughing emoji and the text, “This is our version of the Pandora papers.”
Meanwhile, Pokimane tweeted, “at least people can’t over-exaggerate me ‘making millions a month off my viewers’ anymore.”
Others, such as Moistcr1tikal and HasanAbi argued that their Twitch earning are already public information given that they can be easily determined with simple calculations.
Could More Data Come Out?
This may not be the end of the leak, which was labeled as “part one.” If true, there’s no reason to think that the leakers wouldn’t publish a part two.
For example, they don’t seem to be too fond of Twitch and said they hope this data dump “foster[s] more disruption and competition in the online video streaming space.”
They added that the platform is a “disgusting toxic cesspool” and included the hashtag #DoBetterTwitch, which has been used in recent weeks to drive boycotts against the platform as smaller creators protest the ease at which trolls can use bots to spam their chats with racist, sexist, and homophobic messages.
Still, this leak does appear to lack one notable set of data: password and address information of Twitch users.
That doesn’t necessarily mean the leakers don’t have it. It could just mean they are only currently interested in sharing Twitch’s big secrets.
Regardless, Twitch users and creators are being strongly urged to change their passwords as soon as possible and enable two-factor authentication.