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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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Spotify CEO Defends Keeping Joe Rogan Podcast Episodes That Some Employees Slammed as Transphobic

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  • Spotify reportedly held a company-wide meeting Wednesday where several employees expressed disdain for the fact that the platform carries certain episodes of The Joe Rogan Experience which they say include “transphobic” remarks.
  • “You realize that people are not looking at this objectively,” Rogan said in a July podcast. “They are activists. they have this agenda, and the agenda is very ideologically driven that anybody who even thinks they might be trans should be trans, are trans, and the more trans people the better. And the more kids that transition, the better.”
  • In another episode, Rogan deadnamed and misgendered Caitlin Jenner when describing a joke he performed in 2016 that suggested Jenner had been “[talked] into” becoming a woman by the Kardashian-Jenner’s. 
  • According to Vice’s Motherboard, Spotify CEO Daniel Ek said the company heard its staff’s concerns but has decided that the content in question will not be removed. A spokesperson later said that the content did not violate the platform’s policies.

Spotify Employees Want Certain JRE Podcasts Pulled

At an internal company-wide meeting on Wednesday, Spotify employees reportedly voiced concerns about the platform carrying episodes of Joe Rogan’s podcast which include comments they found“transphobic.”

Vice’s Motherboard first reported on the news, citing three sources who provided details of the meeting. All remained anonymous because they aren’t authorized to discuss internal Spotify issues with the press. 

According to these sources, several employees reportedly asked CEO Daniel Ek why these episodes remained on the platform, with one employee saying LGBTQ+ employees “feel unwelcome and alienated because of leadership’s response in JRE conversations.”

“Why has Spotify chosen to ignore Spectrum [Employee Resource Group’s] guidance about transphobic content in the [Joe Rogan Experience] catalog?” another employee allegedly asked Ek.

One of the moments the employees are referring to stems from a podcast in July. In it, Rogan spoke with Abigail Shrier, author of the book Irreversible Damage: The Transgender Craze Seducing Our Daughters. 

“And by the resistance to your book and the resistance to these conversations, we realize that people are not looking at this objectively,” Rogan said of transgender issues. “This is not something that everyone’s looking at all sides of it. They are activists. They have this agenda, and the agenda is very ideologically driven that anybody who even thinks they might be trans should be trans, are trans, and the more trans people the better. And the more kids that transition, the better.”

Ek Defends Keeping Controversial Podcasts

For now, Spotify has taken the stance that this episode can remain on the platform.

“In the case of Joe Rogan, a total of 10 meetings have been held with various groups and individuals to hear their respective concerns,” Ek said at the meeting, according to Motherboard’s sources. “And some of them want Rogan removed because of things he’s said in the past.”

“Others have concerns specifically over a recent episode,” Ek reportedly added in reference to Rogan’s July podcast with Shrier. “And Joe Rogan and the episode in question have been reviewed extensively. The fact that we aren’t changing our position doesn’t mean we aren’t listening. It just means we made a different judgment call.”

Notably, those three internal sources also told Motherboard that Ek instructed employees not to leak this discussion to the media, reportedly saying “If we can’t have open, confidential debates, we will have to move those discussions to closed doors.”

Once this story did reach the media, however, a Spotify spokesperson told Motherboard: “At Spotify, we are strongly committed to the LGBTQ+ community and diversity in all of its forms. All employees are respected and we believe that everyone has a right to be heard.”

“All content on Spotify is subject to our long-standing content guidelines. Our diverse team of experts reviewed the content in question and determined that it did not meet the criteria for removal from our platform.”

Rogan’s Comments About Caitlyn Jenner

In addition to Rogan’s podcast featuring Shrier, Rogan has also come under fire for a Sept. 11 podcast with mixed martial artist Tim Kennedy. In that episode, Rogan deadnames and misgenders Caitlyn Jenner.

He also Rogan breaks down his writing process for a joke he made about Jenner in his 2016 Netflix special, “Triggered.”

“I wanted to get to, people are saying, ‘He was born a woman. He’s always been a woman,’” Rogan said of Jenner. “I was like, ‘Maybe, or maybe if you live with crazy bitches long enough, they fucking turn you into one.’ Maybe you go crazy. Maybe that, too.”

After calling the Kardashian-Jenner family “crazy bitches,” Rogan proceeded to continue breaking down his joke.

“And so I came up with this thing where they’re demons and they whisper in his ear in the middle of the night, and they talk him into being a woman, but it took forever to figure out a way — but it worked.”

“Like, it worked, and people didn’t even get mad at me for it. I just had to figure out a way to do it, where first of all, I belittle myself, and then, I explain it in a way where it’s not dehumanizing trans people. It’s just like saying, ‘Are we sure?’” 

However, a number of people have now criticized those comments, including Jenner herself, who told TMZ Wednesday, “This is not the first time he’s said things like this.”

“He’s a homophobic, transphobic ass.”

“Joe Rogan has absolutely no idea when it comes to trans issues,” she continued. “He says maybe because I was around all these ‘crazy bitches’ that I, you know, transitioned. It’s not even close. I’ve had these — I’ve been gender dysphoric my entire life.”

Some have pushed back on the idea that Rogan’s comments about Jenner were deliberately malicious, arguing that they began and ended as a joke. 

“Being gender dysphoric, transitioning, all of that is not a joke,” Jenner said in response to such defense of Rogan. “It’s very serious stuff. You’re concerning family, friends, society, all of these types of things, and I just feel like Joe Rogan has a lot to learn.” 

In 2018, Twitter banned the misgendering or deadnaming transgender people — a move Rogan has been critical of. 

Previous Accusations of Censorship

At the beginning of the month, Rogan’s exclusive streaming deal with Spotify officially began. Almost immediately after the platform started hosting his old podcasts, users noticed that some old episodes didn’t appear. That’s despite the fact that Rogan had said that his entire library would be available to stream.

Notably, at the time, it also seemed like the missing podcasts had a common link: they all featured controversial figures such as Alex Jones, Chris D’Elia, Milo Yiannopoulos, Gavin McInnes.

However, people later began to notice that several other missing episodes featured far less controversial figures such as actor Tommy Chong and comedian Nick Kroll.

Nonetheless, many accused Spotify of censoring controversial voices, especially since Rogan is known for talking to people across the political spectrum.

Later, Alex Jones, who said he spoke with Rogan about the matter, claimed Spotify needed to migrate over 1,500+ files, some of which were corrupted. He also said that Spotify wanted a second rollout of episodes.

Here’s the key,” Jones added. “Joe Rogan’s favorite 100 episodes of the last 10 years or so will be left on YouTube starting December 31 when he goes exclusively to Spotify. For this couple months no man’s land the content will be on both platforms and will be migrating over.”

“And so that’s why the Alex Jones interview is not there. That’s why some of the other interviews aren’t there. Because those are going to be the exclusive interviews that are left on YouTube where, in Joe’s words, they’ll probably get more views than if they were on Spotify.”

See what others are saying: (Vice Motherboard) (Insider) (Fox News)

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Celebs Quit Instagram for a Day To Protest Facebook’s “Failures” in Stopping Hate Speech and Misinformation, Critics Call It Performative

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  • On Monday and Tuesday, a host of celebrities said they would be joining the Stop Hate for Profit campaign by freezing their Instagram accounts for 24 hours on Wednesday. 
  • The move is an attempt to pressure Facebook to better combat misinformation and hate speech on the platform, which owns Instagram.
  • The list of celebrities involved includes Kim Kardashian West, Mark Ruffalo, Demi Lovato, Jennifer Lawrence, Katy Perry, Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Michael B. Jordan, and Rosario Dawson, among others. 
  • Many online have criticized this movement as simply performative, saying such as short freeze won’t actually accomplish anything. 
  • Jim Steyer, the chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit that’s part of the campaign, has said the freeze is only the first part of a larger round of messaging.

Stars Join Stop Hate for Profit Campaign

A host of celebrities paused their Instagram accounts for 24 hours starting Wednesday to demand that Facebook take better action against misinformation and hate speech.

Though the protest is mainly taking place on Instagram, Facebook is the main focus of the movement because it owns the photo-sharing platform.

On Monday, celebrities such as Mark Ruffalo, Jennifer Lawrence, and Sasha Baron Cohen announced that they would be taking part in the campaign known as Stop Hate for Profit.

“Facebook claims they address hate, yet they continue to look the other way as racist, violent groups and posts sow division and split America apart – only taking steps after people are killed,” Ruffalo said. 

“While they share empty talk about voting, they continue allowing blatant lies and misinformation on election to spread–undermining our democracy. That’s why this Wednesday, I am “freezing” my Instagram account to tell Facebook to #StopHateForProfit.” 

On Tuesday, a host of other celebrities joined the boycott, including Kim Kardashian West, who made a very similar statement to that of Ruffalo’s. In addition to Instagram, Kardashian West said she would also be freezing her Facebook page for 24 hours. 

Other celebrities now involved in the campaign include Demi Lovato, Katy Perry, Jamie Foxx, Leonardo DiCaprio, Rosario Dawson, and Michael B. Jordan, among others. 

What is Stop Hate for Profit?

According to Stop Hate for Profit’s website, it is a campaign aimed at holding “social media companies accountable for hate on their platforms.”  

“Social media must prioritize people over profit, and they must do it now,” the campaign added.

Notably, the campaign is made up of several civil rights organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League and the NAACP. 

On its website, the campaign cites several recent controversies on Facebook, including one involving a militia event for counterprotests in Kenosha, Washington. That event was flagged by users for promoting violence after the police shooting of Jacob Blake. When the page originally vanished, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the platform had removed the event; however, BuzzFeed News later reported that the militia group itself had taken down the event first. 

As for why this campaign is targetting Facebook and Instagram specifically, it said, “Other social media companies have heard our message and started to step up.”

It then went on to list examples of how it believes Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube have addressed misinformation and hate speech, adding, “While these steps are not sufficient, they show a commitment toward real progress.”

“More importantly, these companies are sitting at the table with us and actively working to take additional steps to protect the civil rights of their users, tackle hate and harassment on their platforms, and safeguard our democracy.”

Social Media Rips into Celeb-Driven Campaign

The Instagram freeze has been met with a hefty amount of criticism and sarcasm from social media users online. 

For instance, below Mark Ruffalo’s Monday tweet, many were skeptical that the protest’s short time frame would ever result in lasting change. 

In a similar post Ruffalo made to Facebook Thursday morning, one user said:

“How about you make some really big statement and just delete and get off of these social media platforms all together! They’re making billions of dollars and if you think boycotting for a 24 hour period is going to make even the slightest dent, I think you’re sadly mistaken. I’m in the process of deleting all my social media accounts even though I have a Business and it will hurt. Doing it anyway because there has to be a better and more responsible way to promote my business.”

Source: Facebook 

Stop Hate for Profit’s July Campaign

Encouraging businesses to pull out of Facebook is actually an effort the Stop Hate for Profit campaign has already engaged in. 

In July, the campaign persuaded more than 1,000 advertisers to pause their ad spending on the platform. Notably, that included big names like Adidas, Reebok, Best Buy, Chipotle, Coca-Cola, Target; however, a later report showed that even between boycotters and other reduced spenders, Facebook’s ad revenue in July didn’t really suffer all that much. 

Source: The New York Times

Because of that, some have continued to question how a single-day Instagram boycott will pressure Facebook. Some have also drawn parallels between this movement and June’s one-day #BlackoutTuesday Instagram trend, which was understood as a way to show solidarity with Black victims of police brutality and racism. During that event, some on social media accused others of simply engaging in a “performative” stunt. Others argued that such posts could actually hurt the Black Lives Matter movement by silencing critical hashtags and Black voices behind the initial campaign.

Now, people like Jenna Golden, the head of a consulting firm in Washington, have denounced the Stop Hate for Profit campaign as “worthless if temporary and short-lived (which they always are.)” 

If anything, they shine a light on the fact that we cannot live without these platforms since everyone always comes back (brands included.),” she added.

While there has been serious concern from many, others have been supportive of celebrities taking part in the campaign. 

“I’m in!! Facebook is destroying minds, friendships, families, businesses,” one person tweeted in reply to Sasha Baron Cohen. “The false information that is being believed by previously rational people is destructive beyond belief. It has to stop.” 

What’s Next?

Jim Steyer, the chief executive of Common Sense Media, a nonprofit group that has joined the campaign, told The New York Times on Tuesday that the Instagram freeze is just the beginning of a larger awareness campaign.

Steyer added that once the 24-hour expires on Thursday, celebrities will begin sharing educational messages aimed specifically at their younger followers. He said those messages will promote democracy and will offer explanations into how social media platforms spread misinformation,  broadcast hate speech, and allow far-right groups to form online.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (Axios) (CNBC)

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TikTok Chooses Oracle To Be Its U.S. “Technology Partner.” Is It Enough to Stop a U.S. Ban?

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  • TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, accepted an offer from the software company Oracle on Sunday after rejecting a deal with Microsoft, which was widely considered a favorite in the bidding for the app.
  • However, the deal is not expected to be an outright sale. Under it, ByteDance retains ownership of TikTok but will outsource the cloud management of its data.
  • It is unclear if the compromise could be at odds with a new Chinese law that prevents ByteDance from selling the app to a foreign company without the Chinese government’s permission. 
  • Some are also concerned the Trump administration might not accept this compromise if it is found to not adequately address the administration’s national security concerns. 

TikTok Accepts Oracle Bid

ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, chose to partner with the software company Oracle on Sunday instead of Microsoft, which was considered a frontrunner in the bidding for control of the app’s U.S. operations.

“We are confident our proposal would have been good for TikTok’s users, while protecting national security interests,” Microsoft said in a blog post Sunday. “To do this, we would have made significant changes to ensure the service met the highest standards for security, privacy, online safety, and combatting disinformation…” 

Shortly after this announcement, ByteDance confirmed it had accepted Oracle’s bid. While it is still unknown how much Oracle offered or how it compares to Microsoft’s bid, one of the reasons why ByteDance may have chosen Oracle instead is because of the deal itself.

Microsoft has wanted to buy TikTok from ByteDance. Oracle, on the other hand, has reportedly struck a different deal. According to multiple outlets who spoke to people familiar with the discussions, ByteDance has described Oracle as its new “technology partner.” This later matched language used by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin on CNBC’s “Squawk Box” Monday. 

Under the conditions of the deal, ByteDance would retain ownership of TikTok and its algorithm. Meanwhile, it would outsource the cloud management of its data to Oracle. 

According to Mnuchin, ByteDance is committed to moving its headquarters from China to the United States, bringing with it 20,000 new jobs. That condition is reportedly to quell concerns that ByteDance would still be subject to laws that would require it to share data with the Chinese government if directed. 

China’s New Rule

On Monday, Chinese state media reported: “ByteDance will not sell TikTok’s U.S. operations to Microsoft or Oracle, nor will the company give the source code to any U.S. buyers, sources said.”

That doesn’t mean the reports of this deal are fake. Outsourcing management of data isn’t the same as giving the source code. 

Instead, this is referring to a recent law revision in China meant to complicate or even halt the sale of TikTok to a U.S. company. That law, which was changed at the end of last month, now prevents Chinese companies from selling certain types of technology to foreign buyers without the explicit permission of the Chinese government.

Regarding why China changed this law all of a sudden, political economist Shirley Yu told CNN Business, “Beijing wants to protect its ascending status in global technology.”

For now, it remains unclear if China sees this deal as a win or if it thinks it goes too far, especially because it could mean a shift for TikTok’s global headquarters. It’s also unclear whether or not this deal could simply skirt that revised law altogether or if the Chinese government would still need to sign off on it.

Will the Trump Administration Accept This Compromise?

It’s not just China that could complicate this deal. Last month, President Donald Trump issued two executive orders against TikTok. The first, signed on Aug. 6, banned any transactions with the app starting on Sept. 20. The other, signed on Aug. 14, gave ByteDance 90 days to divest from its American assets and any data that TikTok had gathered in the U.S.

“There is credible evidence that leads me to believe that ByteDance… might take action that threatens to impair the national security of the United States,” Trump said in his second executive order.

Trump has repeatedly expressed fears that ByteDance could hand over U.S user data to China; however, TikTok has consistently denied that claim, saying that U.S. user data is stored domestically with a backup in Singapore.

Still, pressure remained, prompting the push for an American company to buy U.S. operations of TikTok.

This latest deal with Oracle has cast doubt over whether it’s enough to meet the Trump administration’s national security concerns. For example, Alex Stamos, a cybersecurity expert and former Facebook security head, said on Twitter that the deal “would not address any of the legitimate concerns about TikTok, and the White House accepting such a deal would demonstrate that this exercise was pure grift.”

One former U.S. official, who spoke with The Washington Post, also noted that the current deal, at least at the moment, seems “well short of a U.S. company taking over the asset and the algorithm, and politically, it would be a massive climb-down from what the president said he was going to accomplish with this.”

According to a current senior administration official who also spoke with The Post, “It’s not a climb-down.”

The official stressed any deal would need to be approved by an interagency group, which would first confirm that national security standards have been met. “All of the details are not out,” that official added. 

On “Squawk Box,” Mnuchin said that he’s open to hearing the offer, adding that Oracle has made “many representations for national security issues.”

It’s not unreasonable to think that the U.S. may approve the deal. Oracle’s CEO, Larry Ellison, is a prominent Trump supporter and the company itself even has close ties to the administration. According to Axios, that could give it an edge in trying to win White House approval.

Still, even though Trump has called Oracle a “great company,” Trump has also been adamant that TikTok must become a fully U.S.-owned company, so it is also likely that this deal will not meet the administration’s demands. 

As for what’s next, ByteDance, Oracle, the U.S., and possibly the Chinese government would all need to sign on to this deal. Because of that, the idea that it could all fall apart isn’t out of the realm of possibility.

The deadline for this deal to be reached is Sept. 20. If there’s still no agreement by then, TikTok will likely try to obtain a temporary injunction to remain usable. 

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

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