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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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Twitch Updates Its Nudity and Attire Policy With More Specific Rules

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  • Twitch updated its Nudity and Attire guidelines after much backlash over previous vague policies that said streamers should dress in attire “appropriate for public settings.”
  • The new policies ban full and partial nudity, including exposed genitals or buttocks. It also says women must cover nipples and not expose underbust, though cleavage is unrestricted.
  • Situational expectations were made for breastfeeding, swimming and beaches, concerts, IRL streams, body art, and more. 
  • While some have welcomed the new specific rules, many argue that they continue to allow people to scrutinize women by policing their bodies.

Problems With Twitch’s Previous Nudity Policy 

Twitch updated its policies around nudity and attire on Tuesday, giving its most specific guidelines to date about how much skin a streamer can show on the platform.

For years now, Twitch has faced backlash over so-called “boobie streamers,” which is a term essentially used to describe female streamers who are suspected of luring in viewers with their looks and sexually suggestive content. 

However, the problem is that oftentimes, women who wear what some consider provocative clothing are sometimes looped into that category as well, like fitness streamers or cosplayers. 

Twitch has tried to crack down on nudity and sexually suggestive content in general, but it has struggled to lay out clear policies that satisfy its users. Previous vague attempts instead put several creators in gray areas, like those who do body art or outdoor streams. 

The platform previously said that streamers should dress in attire that is “appropriate” for public settings, “such as what you would wear on a public street, or to a mall or restaurant.” 

This really didn’t clear things up for people since what someone finds appropriate is subjective.  For example, leggings and a sports bra might be considered appropriate to some, but it can be perceived as something different by someone else. 

Twitch has made it clear that it doesn’t want to allow pornography on its platform, but some say that its guidelines were inconsistently applied. Many argued that the rules often allowed for misogynists to rally against streamers they didn’t like and sometimes, streamers who tried to play by the rules were punished. 

In February for instance, body painting artist Forkgirl was suspended for violating the nudity policy, despite believing she did nothing wrong. She thought her suspension might have been prompted by trolls mass reporting her content. Twitch later said her chest was not adequately covered but reinstated her after recognizing her “good faith attempt” to comply with their policies. 

Folkgirl and others have called for more transparency from Twitch, asking for more precise information about what guidelines they’re breaking so they can avoid doing so. 

Twitch Announces New Policies 

Well, this time around Twitch laid out more specific policies, saying in a blog post, “Our previous policy relied on an assumed shared understanding of what is appropriate in specific contexts. Establishing a standard for coverage reduces the policy’s reliance on an assumed single definition of contextually acceptable. ” 

Twitch’s said it does not allow any steamers to be fully or partially nude, “including exposing genitals or buttocks.”

“We do not permit the visible outline of genitals, even when covered. Broadcasting nude or partially nude minors is always prohibited, regardless of context,” it added.

The updates then specifically addressed women, saying, “For those who present as women, we ask that you cover your nipples. We do not permit exposed underbust. Cleavage is unrestricted as long as these coverage requirements are met.”

On top of those rules, it says all streamers must cover the area extending from their hips to the bottom of their pelvis and buttocks. As far as areas of the body where coverage is required, it said, “the coverage must be fully opaque – sheer or partially see-through clothing does not constitute coverage.”

“Augmented reality avatars that translate real-life movement into digital characters are subject to this standard, as is cosplay and other costumes.“

However, the new guidelines do provide some exceptions, noting that some situations call for attire that is prohibited in their standard guidelines. Their list of contextual exceptions includes:

  • IRL streaming
  • Swim and beaches, concerts and festivals
  • Body Art
  • Context transitions
  • Embedded media, studio and other Twitch-endorsed content
  • Breastfeeding

More specifics about each expectation are listed in the updated community guidelines page, but essentially the rules still say that even in these cases, streamers must still make sure to have opaque coverage over their nipples, buttocks, and genitals. However, standard chest coverage rules do not apply to those breastfeeding on stream. 

“This list is not exhaustive,” the update states, “and we will update it periodically as the community’s needs evolve.”

Twitch also said it has added a clarification to its Sexually Suggestive Content policy writing, “We continue to evaluate attire and sexual content separately and as always, sexually explicit and suggestive content are prohibited on Twitch. To further clarify our stance, we’ve added concrete examples of content considered sexually suggestive. Again this list is not exhaustive but seeks to minimize uncertainty about our expectations and considerations when our safety operations team is making evaluations.”

The community guidelines now ban explicitly sexual behaviors, including erotic dancing, simulated sex acts, and pole dancing with “a sexual framing,” among other content.

The new policies went into effect immediately and Twitch noted in its blog post that old suspensions still stand. “Although your content may not violate the new policy, it violated the guidelines in place when the enforcement was issued,” it said. 

As far as older content that violates the new policy, Twitch is giving users until May 1 to evaluate and remove videos themselves. “After that time, if reported, we will remove the content, but no other enforcement actions will be taken against the channel.”

While some have welcomed the specific guidelines, some say they allow people to continue to scrutinize women by policing their bodies. 

For now, many are waiting to see how the policies are actually enforced moving forward. 

See what others are saying: (Vice) (GameRant) (Polygon) 

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James Charles, Corinna Kopf, and Other Influencers Slammed for Participating in TikTok “Mugshot” Trend

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  • Internet users are participating in a TikTok trend that involves creating their own mugshot photos, including influencers like James Charles, Corinna Kopf, and Avani Gregg. 
  • There are different variations of the trend, which has been criticized as insensitive to the levels of police brutality and incarceration rates people of color disproportionately face.
  • Bloody and bruised up mugshot photos, in particular, were also accused of glamorizing abuse and triggering domestic violence survivors.
  • Some influencers removed their posts like James Charles, who still defended his look by comparing it to music artwork used by The Weeknd and Billie Eilish. 

The “Mugshot” Trend 

Several influencers have come under fire for participating in a version of a viral “mugshot” TikTok trend that many say is insensitive and triggering to abuse victims. 

Mugshots, for some reason, are a pretty popular topic on the app, with users making compilation videos of real mugshots featuring people they find interesting or attractive. 

@camwoohooo

part 3!!!! last girl looks like she knows how to have a gooooood time ##greenscreen ##shykids ##diyproject ##mugshot ##fyp

♬ Really Really – Kevin Gates

That eventually morphed into posts of users staging their own mugshot photos. Typical posts show the creator with messy hair, smudged mascara or other costume makeup used to roughen up their look. Sometimes the users hold up some sort of sign with a fake or funny reason for their “arrest.” 

@maria.decomo

i’m gonna try and recreate my moms mugshot next

♬ Boss Bitch – Doja Cat

Others have even pretended to get in fights or staged scenarios that might have lead up to their fake arrest. Some people have taken it a step further, adding fake bruises, black eyes, and bloody noses. 

So essentially there are a wide range of ways you can go with this trend and there are a lot of different reasons people take issues with it. Many say those participating in the challenge are largely privileged and don’t understand levels of police brutality and incarceration rates people of color disproportionately face.

But the versions that have come under the most scrutiny this week are ones that feature bruised and bloody faces.

Influencers Face Backlash 

Some influencers who jumped in on the trend include YouTuber and Vlog Squad member Corinna Kopf, TikTok creator and Hype House member Avani Gregg, and beauty YouTuber James Charles, who seems to have been hit with the most backlash.   

@CorinnaKopf
@jamescharles

The creators posted their looks on Instagram and Twitter, where some who were unaware of the TikTok trend were confused and surprised. James Charles, for instance, posted his look without a caption and he was flooded with comments accusing him of triggering domestic violence survivors and glamorizing abuse. 

According to Insider, in a since-deleted Tweet, James said that he had changed his Instagram caption to joke about getting punched, but he changed it back soon after because “making that joke wasn’t funny.”

Still, his replies were full of stories from domestic violence survivors who found the look offensive. 

He eventually responded to one fan who said the fake bruises made her feel “dehumanized” because she couldn’t take hers off.

In now-deleted tweets, he also pointed to bloody looks by The Weeknd and Billie Eilish.

@jamescharles

Eventually, he decided to delete the post, writing, “it’s a waste of time trying to have an open discussion with people who hate me regardless.”

When someone told James he doesn’t have to apologize for everything, he clarified that he was no apologizing.

Gregg responded to some backlash in an Instagram story as well. She apologized for potentially triggering some people but wrote, “My mugshot pics and videos had nothing to do with domestic violence.” 

She went on to explain the storyline for the character she took on in a series of TikTok posts, adding, ”I just wanted to clarify that bc i’m being looped in with people actually making their mugshots portray domestic violence vibes and i’m sorry they are doing that but mine are clearly not and if you watch all my mugshot tiktoks u can see that.”

Around the same time James deleted his posts, Kopf also deleted her photos as well. However, she has no comment on the backlash as of now. 

Still, these influencers are not the only ones who have participated in some version of this trend, but the attention around their posts have sparked discussion over whether or not these mugshot creations are appropriate. 

See what others are saying: (Insider) (Mashable) (Nylon)

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Meghan Rienks’ Channel Hack Highlights YouTube Support Issues

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  • For two months, YouTuber Meghan Rienks has been struggling to get YouTube Support’s help to recover her hacked vlog channel.
  • After several confusing email exchanges with the company that presented her with no real solutions, Reinks said she only began to see more helpful and rapid responses when Shane Dawson and Gigi Hadid spoke up or offered their own connections.
  • Rienks said she spoke on the phone with YouTube on Wednesday and learned she may not be able to get her videos back. She also said that she worries about smaller creators who are left with even fewer options when they have issues with their channels.

Rienks Battles with YouTube After Hack

After months of battling with YouTube to regain access to her hacked channel, YouTuber Meghan Rienks said that a call with the company revealed that she may not be able to get her videos back.

On Tuesday, she confirmed via Twitter that YouTube agreed to talk over the phone. The sudden help from the platform came just one day after she posted a 45-minute video detailing the company’s disappointing response to her vlog channel being hacked in January. That call, however, did not go in the direction she was hoping.

She posted on Twitter that the call “wasn’t great.” On a Wednesday night Instagram story, she told her followers that she would likely lose the content she had on the channel, some of which is a decade old.

Her problems with YouTube’s support stem back even further than this phone call. Rienks’ Monday video starts with her explaining that in October, she realized her main channel was not appearing online for viewers, despite it looking fine from her end while logged in. Solving this with YouTube took roughly two weeks. During that time, they had back and forths where they told her nothing was wrong with her channel. 

The company eventually realized they had been looking into her vlog channel instead and had also sent her the wrong link to solve her main channel issues. During this time, she did notice a suspicious upload on her vlog channel but kept that on the back burner so she could focus on her main channel. 

Her vlog channel came back to the forefront on January 2, when Rienks realized it had been fully hacked and rebranded. Her videos were gone, and even though the channel still had her URL, it was now called “Beauty Dior” and has new logos and images.

The page was now full of several newly posted videos, all of which appeared to be re-uploads of beauty tutorials which she suspects are also stolen. On top of that, the email she had associated with the channel was deleted, preventing her from recovering it and regaining control of the account.

Exchanges With YouTube Continue For Two Months

Rienks reached out to YouTube the following morning, thinking this would be an easy fix seeing as the hacking was very obvious. Instead, it led to a series of seemingly empty-worded exchanges between YouTube, Rienks, her manager, and others on her team. In some emails sent from YouTube, Rienks was not even included and had to be kept in the loop via her manager.

In one, the YouTuber support person addresses the email to “Alex.” However, no one involved in these communications is named Alex, or even a name remotely similar to Alex. Rienks stated multiple times that she felt she was not in contact with a real person. 

Substantial news did not come from YouTube until February 22, when YouTube told Meghan they found no signs of abnormal activity on the channel. When she followed up, emphasizing that the channel had been fully rebranded, they maintained their findings in a grammatically messy email. 

“Hi there, thanks for your reply. I understand why you’re wondering that the investigation resulted that no highjacking activity happened on the channel,” they wrote. “However, I can assure you that our internal team carefully investigated this and didn’t found any.” 

They advised that she increase her password and account security, a measure she had actively been taking on all of her channels and social media accounts since the original incident in October.

Rienks Takes to Twitter

The next morning, she emailed them at 9 AM to request a phone call so she could guarantee swift, immediate contact with a real person. She also hopped on Twitter to express her frustrations.

At around the same time she sent her email, she shared YouTube’s response alongside proof that her account had been clearly hacked on Twitter. She also said she had seen a substantial loss in subscribers on the channel since January. 

While those posts gained a decent amount of traction when she uploaded them, they blew up when YouTuber Shane Dawson shared one a little after 2 p.m. Dawson mentioned several YouTube Twitter accounts in his message, which included a plea for help.

Just 45 minutes after Shane sent his tweet out, Rienks saw action from YouTube. She received an email saying that phone support was not an option, but her case was now being marked high priority. She also began direct messaging Team YouTube, which led to more confusing back and forths.

After initially claiming that YouTube had looked into her main channel instead of her vlog, an excuse similar to one give during the first situation in October, Team YouTube they were “not sure why [internal teams] came to that conclusion” that there was no abnormal activity on her vlog. They assured Rienks that she had been in contact with real people at YouTube, and apologized for the delay in solving her problem.

“I am sorry you had to take to twitter to get more help with this,” one of the messages read. “That shouldn’t be the case at all.”

Around the same time, another well-known face slid into Rienks’ DMs –supermodel Gigi Hadid. Hadid, who is a follower of Reinks, told her that she was sorry about her situation, and had a friend at YouTube who could be able to help. 

“This is the only time that I’m getting help,” Rienks said frustratedly in her video. “Is when Shane Dawson and Gigi Hadid help me. Thanks guys.”

On this day, Beauty Dior was still posting content on her channel. She also noted she saw that the account was being sold on a site for $500.

Rienks’ Frustrations with YouTube

While Rienks was recording her video, she got an update from YouTube. 

“The email YouTube just sent is that I can have my channel transferred over to me, I just have to agree to not sue them,” Rienks explained. “And also, I can’t have any of the videos that were privated. Which is all of them.” 

She spoke to her attorney about the email, who said that nothing in their message to her contained a legal document or legally binding clauses. 

“This is a failed system and it’s not working,” she said, explaining her overall anger about YouTube’s response. “And also through all of this I found, if it’s not working for me, it is not working for so many creators who have much smaller channels.” 

In the description of the video, she further expressed that while she wants her channel back, she also wants larger-scale change at YouTube. 

I want a meeting at Youtube. With REAL HUMANS. With the ‘people’ who run the support team & *personally* investigate hijacked channels,” she wrote. “Because it is a broken system and it needs to be changed. I know this is a long shot, but this has been happening for far too long, to far too many creators.”

“There’s no way that Youtube has coded & built software to pickup on less than 10 seconds of skewed pitch copyrighted song, yet they’re still unable to accurately verify a compromised channel,” she added. “This needs to change.”

When heading to Rienks’ vlog channel today, viewers can still find it as Beauty Dior.

Update: This article was updated from its original form to include new information about Rienks’ phone call with YouTube.

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