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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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YouTube Family Vlogger Petitions FTC Ahead of 2020 COPPA Enforcement

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  • YouTube will soon remove personalized ads from children’s content after the Federal Trade Commission determined that it had violated children’s privacy laws by placing targeted ads over kids’ content.
  • Following YouTube’s announcement, creators like Jeremy Johnston of J House Vlogs are now bringing their concerns directly before the Federal Trade Commission during their open window, which closes Dec. 9.
  • Among other concerns, creators are asking the FTC to provide a better definition of “child-directed” content out of fear that they may still lose ads on video that may be deemed “attractive,” but not necessarily directed at children.

YouTubers Lobby FTC

Children’s content creators and family bloggers on YouTube are lobbying against upcoming changes to an online child privacy law, which they say will affect the quality of their videos and how those videos make money.

As of Thursday afternoon, a Change.org petition arguing against the changes has attracted more than 38,000 signatures. The petition was started by Jeremy Johnston who, along with his wife Kendra, run the family vlogging channel J House Vlogs.

In September, YouTube announced that it would be changing the way it displays ads on children’s content. The changes are meant to comply with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act after the Federal Trade Commission and New York Attorney General Letitia James accused YouTube of illegally collecting personal information from children to show them targeted ads.

Regarding ads, YouTube uses two types: general and personalized ads. General ads appear regardless of a user’s viewing history, but personalized ads look at a user’s viewing history to present products or services a user may be more interested in. 

Because of the changes to COPPA, YouTube said it will remove all personalized ads on children’s content in January. The FTC also said it would hear public comments until Oct. 23 before enforcing new COPPA guidelines.

As a result, Johnston has lobbied the Federal Trade Commission in an attempt to add exceptions to children’s content creators. 

Johnston Speaks with Rogue Rocket

In an interview with Rogue Rocket, Johnston said he filed a request to extend the FTC’s public comments period until Dec. 9, which was later approved.

Johnston told Rogue Rocket he made the filing after meeting with the FTC. During the meeting, he said the commission was unaware that personalized and general ads paid different amounts to creators. 

While Johnston said he thought the FTC was legitimately trying to do what’s best for children, he also said FTC was largely unaware of creators’ concerns beforehand. 

Regarding his own channel, Johnston said he and his wife have already decided to pull the plug on a planned children’s channel called J House Jr.

While he said big creators can find other ways to generate money, through brand deals or other projects, he also said losing personalized ads can be devastating for channels.

“That isn’t going to be available for the small creators in the future, and that’s a big reason why I’m speaking out,” he told Rogue Rocket. “I wouldn’t be doing all of this if it was just about my channel. But I’m considering other people like me or other people five years, 10 years from now who want to get going. I’m so grateful that when I took that leap of faith to say ‘I’m going to do YouTube full-time’ that ad revenue made that possible.”  

Although Johnston said he understands the need for parents to have control in their kids’ privacy online, he said the new changes won’t do that. 

“We care about children’s privacy,” he said. “We are just saying that this regulation is going to do more harm than good. I think it’s really important that we all recognize that the majority of parents are letting their children watch YouTube main.”  

“We’re wanting parents to continue making that choice with the government coming in and overriding the parents’ decision,” he continued. “If parents were really concerned with personalized ads, it raises the question, why are they all letting their children watch YouTube main?” 

What’s in the Petition?

Specifically, the creators and supporters who’ve signed that petition are asking the FTC to provide a statement on how COPPA will be enforced against creators, as well as clarify the definition of “child-directed” content. 

One major concern for creators is the specific use of the language “child-directed.” Currently, the FTC is debating whether or not to add “child-attractive” content, ie. content that is marketed to a general audience but could still be considered friendly for children to watch. 

The petition also requests that the FTC delay enforcement any changes until it finishes reviewing COPPA.

It ends by asking the FTC to encourage parents to use apps like YouTube Kids instead of forcing creators to turn off personalized ads.

According to Bloomberg, YouTube Kids currently only attracts about 1% of YouTube’s total audience even though kids’ content is the most-viewed on YouTube.

Why Is This Important to Viewers?

While some viewers find ads annoying, many creators make money by placing ads in front of their videos.

According to Tubefilter, general ads can bring in anywhere from 60 to 90% less than personalized ads. Creators fear that the loss of revenue could, in turn, hurt the quality of their videos. 

In fact, Johnston says a lot of the money made from J House Vlogs videos goes back into making quality content on the channel.

In addition to that, creators also worry their content could be fined for violating COPPA, with that fine being up to $42,530. Creators like Johnston and Derral Eves say that these concerns could also result in more mature content on YouTube. 

See what others are saying: (Bloomberg) (Tubefilter)

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Shane Dawson Accused of Using Tati Westbrook and James Charles Drama as Clickbait Amid Success of Massive Beauty Launch

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  • Shane Dawson’s collaboration with Jeffree Star officially launched online and in stores Friday.
  • Fans crashed the website within seconds and stood in line for hours to get their hands on the products, which have since completely sold out. 
  • Amid all the craze surrounding the launch, Dawson is also facing criticism from viewers who say he used the Tati Westbrook- James Charles drama for clickbait in the trailer since it has yet to be mentioned in the series.

Shane Dawson Beauty Launch 

Shane Dawson and Jeffree Stars’ highly anticipated makeup and merchandise collaboration finally launched Friday and quickly took over the internet, meanwhile, fans are still wondering if YouTube beauty drama will be included in upcoming episodes of his series. 

The YouTubers released two eyeshadow palettes, a collection of liquid lipsticks, a line of merchandise, and more. But fans had completely overwhelmed the website before the company behind it, Shopify, could even finish listing each item for sale. 

Minutes after the scheduled launch time, Star tweeted that the site had crashed, adding “Shane’s in a ball crying on the floor.” 

Issues persisted for hours, with many users complaining about the site crashing, error messages, missing confirmation emails, and other problems.

Those who chose to purchase the palette at their local Morphe stores also had to wait in huge lines to get their hands on any of the products. 

As many people expected, the Conspiracy palette was completely sold out by the middle of the day, with the rest of the line selling out shortly after.

Although we don’t know the exact figures just yet, it seems the launch has already broken records according to Jeffree Star, who said the statistics will be released in the coming days. 

Fans Accuse Shane of Clickbait 

The build-up for the release was of course set up by each installment of Dawson’s docu-series, “The Beautiful World of Jeffree Star.” Of the six parts that have been released so far, the lowest viewed episode sits at over 14 million views, while all of the episodes combined make up over 110 million views. 

Despite the success of the episodes so far, some fans are upset that Dawson has not included any footage from the infamous Tati Westbrook and James Charles drama. 

As you might remember, massive beauty influencer James Charles lost nearly 3 million subscribers in May after his former mentor Tati Westbrook posted her infamous “Bye Sister” video, publicly announcing the end of their friendship. One stand out moment in the video involved her claim that Charles uses his celebrity status to sexually manipulate straight men. 

Star and Dawson both publicly expressed their support for Westbrook during the whole ordeal, with Star even going so far as to call Charles a predator.  After apologies and explanations from Charles, Star, and Westbrook, the drama eventually blew over and Charles’ subscriber count bounced back.

Fans were hoping to see more about Star and Dawson’s involvement and opinions on the situation in his series and it seemed like they were going to get exactly that. In his trailer for the docu-series, Dawson included footage of him reacting to Westbrook’s initial video and Charles’ subscriber loss.

As of now, the series has seemed to move in chronological order without any mention of the drama, which has left some fans feeling disappointed. Some have even accused Dawson of using the incident as clickbait for views.

Some suggested that Dawson excluded the drama out of respect for those involved, especially since Westbrook and Charles both recently released products last month. Others said it would be harmful to bring it all back up again after everyone has seemingly moved past it. 

Fans also said it was likely a decision to focus on the business aspect of the beauty industry rather than the drama. They specifically pointed to a poll Dawson posted early on in the series asking viewers what they wanted to see more of, though viewers seem to be split on what the results actually were. Meanwhile, others pointed out that there are still more episodes set to come.

See what others are saying: (Business Insider) (PopBuzz)(Mashable)

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YouTuber Jaclyn Hill Defends “Canceled” Halloween Costume

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  • Critics are slamming beauty YouTuber Jaclyn Hill for appearing at her Haloween party this weekend as a “canceled” version of herself. 
  • Some thought she was making light of her recent lipstick scandal and mocking customers who were upset with her over the failed product launch. 
  • Hill addressed the backlash, saying the costume was not about her customers or her lipsticks but instead was a comment about the community and cancel culture.

Jaclyn HIll’s Costume 

Beauty YouTuber Jaclyn Hill has responded to backlash over her Halloween costume – a “canceled” version of herself. 

Hill hosted a party at her temporary home in Los Angeles, California Saturday night, which was packed with dozens of her friends and fellow YouTubers like James Charles and Nikita Dragun. 

But the main talk of the party online was Hill’s costume. The beauty guru wore a black dress with red letters that spelled out “SHE’S CANCELED” and “JACLYN HILL IS CANCELED.” She also sported some fake wounds and blood to add to the Halloween look.

Many found this costume to be a risky choice considering the recent scandal surrounding her lipstick line launch this past June. Customers complained of lumpy lipsticks embedded with hairs or what they thought might have been shards of plastic. Others believed that she might have been selling old lipsticks that were moldy and unsafe to use.

Hill later denied those claims and apologized to her customers. She gave explanations for defective products, like cotton gloves used in production causing the hairs and high temperatures during shipping affecting consistency. The whole ordeal came to an end when she issued refunds, though she never recalled the product as many had asked and promised they were still safe to use. 

She wasn’t the only one who was inspired by the lipstick controversy. Drama YouTuber Sebastian Williams even appeared at the event wearing “Jaclyn Hill’s harry lipsticks as horns.”

Mixed Reactions 

A lot of social media users saw Hill’s costume as a funny way to own her controversy and poke fun at herself. 

Others, however, took issue with her making light of the situation. Some called it tacky, while others argued that it was disrespectful towards customers who had been let down by her lipstick launch. 

Jaclyn Hill Defends Costume

After seeing some of the backlash, Hill took to Twitter to explain that her costume wasn’t aimed at her customers. 

“This costume has NOTHING to do with my fans or customers,” she tweeted. “It has to do with ‘cancel culture’ that has become so popular. I adore my subscribers & they know that!”

She made a similar statement in another post saying, “A lot of people are missing the point. This has nothing to do with my lipsticks. That’s a whole different situation. This costume was supposed to be about the community. About Influencers & cancel culture. But people can read into it however they want obviously.” 

In an Instagram post, she wrote a more detailed caption about the intentions behind her costume, saying, “Over the last several years the internet has become more & more cruel & has developed what we now call “cancel culture” not one day has gone by in over 2 years where I have not seen ‘you’re canceled’ online.”

“I wanted to create a look showing the glam side of this industry & the ugly,” she added. “So here is it. You want me canceled? You got it baby. And I know my “haters” are going to HATE this costume. But that’s okay, I love you anyway.”

Hill also address a less serious element of the costume that critics seemed to also take issue with: spelling. One tweet went viral, slamming the beauty guru for using one “L” instead of two on her costume. 

She responded to that with a Google search of the proper way to spell the term, which notes that both are correct, but one “L” is more favored by Americans while two are more commonly used in British English.  

In response to the viral tweet, she wrote “OMGGGG! Over 100k favorites??!! Does this mean im famous!!? I love my illiterate ass.” Then in a reply to fan defending her, she wrote “I have to laugh at all these tweets about my ‘misspelling’ people will find anything!! Even when google & the dictionary proves it correct, they still gotta reach.” 

See what others are saying: (E! News) (PopBuzz) (Insider)

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