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Child Influencers on YouTube Are Increasingly Promoting Junk Food, New Study Finds

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  • A new study that looked at food promotions among the top five kid influencers on YouTube in 2019 found that 94% of food featured on the channels were junk food items.
  • The study is the first-ever done regarding kid influencers and food product placement.
  • Among other influencers, the study found that Ryan Kaji of Ryan’s World has often promoted unhealthy food, sometimes without properly disclosing that the content was an ad.
  • Numerous studies have found that children are much more susceptible to advertising. According to the new report, coded advertising that blends with the show is especially effective, a practice seen in many kid influencer videos.
  • The kinds of advertising noted in the study have long been banned on children’s TV programs, and now some are calling for similar regulations on YouTube.

New Study Findings

YouTube’s top child influencers have been increasingly promoting and marketing junk food to their young viewers, according to a new study published Monday by the journal Pediatrics.

According to the authors of the study, it is the first-ever of its kind that has examined “the extent to which kid influencers include food and beverage product placements in their YouTube videos.”

To conduct the study, researchers identified the top five most-watched kid influencers in 2019, and then searched for “50 of their most-watched videos and 50 of their videos that featured food and/or drinks on the thumbnail image of the video.”

In the sample of 418 videos met the search criteria, a total of 179 —  nearly 40% — featured food or drinks, and of those products, the vast majority were unhealthy.

According to the study’s findings, 90% of all food and drink shown in the kids’ videos were unhealthy branded items like McDonald’s, followed by 4% of unhealthy unbranded items like hotdogs. Both healthy branded and unbranded food and drink composed just over 5% of all products featured.

Those numbers are particularly concerning because according to the researchers, just the 179 videos that featured food racked up 1 billion views and over 16 million impressions for those food and drink products.

Ryan’s World

The findings of the study are highly significant, especially as the videos cited come from kids who have a massive influence on the platform, like 8-year-old Ryan Kaji of Ryan’s World.

Not only is Ryan easily the largest child influencer on YouTube, he is also one of the largest creators on the platform period. According to Forbes, he was the highest-earning YouTuber in 2019, bringing in an estimated $26 million last year alone.

In addition to his nearly 27 million subscribers, according to the Pediactrics study, his videos also account for over 64% of all views on every video ever produced by the top five child influencers analyzed.

Ryan’s scope is specifically relevant when it comes to the promotion of unhealthy food. According to The New York Times, some of the brands Ryan has been paid to promote include fast-food chains like Chuck E. Cheese, Lunchables, Hardee’s, Carl’s Jr., and others.

For example, both The Times and the Pediatrics study noted that one of his most popular videos shows him pretending to be a cashier at McDonald’s. In it, he wears a hat with the McDonald’s logo, serves plastic McDonald’s products to one of his toys, and then eats a McDonald’s Happy Meal. That video alone has been viewed nearly 95 million times.

Notably, Ryan’s World has been accused of not properly disclosing sponsorships in the past– including fast-food ads. Just last year, several senators accused the channel of running ads for Carl’s Jr. without disclosing that they were sponsored commercials and called on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate.

Other groups have also made similar accusations against Ryan’s World, but it is by no means alone. To make matters more complicated, the authors of the Pediatrics study were also unable to tell when child influencers had been paid to promote the unhealthy products because they were not always clearly disclosed.

The FTC requires influencers to disclose any and all paid promotions, but as The Time’s notes, “critics say the policy is rarely enforced, and that influencers often ignore it.”

Other Issues

When it comes to kid influencers, the lack of proper disclosure is distinctly alarming because of the way these promotions are already ingrained in these child-targeted videos.

“The way these branded products are integrated in everyday life in these videos is pretty creative and unbelievable,” Marie Bragg, one of the authors of the study explained. “It’s a stealthy and powerful way of getting these unhealthy products in front of kids’ eyeballs.”

Other experts also noted that the power of these stealthy promotions is also amplified by the fact that parents may not realize or understand that their children are watching advertisements for fast food.

“These videos are incredibly powerful. Very busy parents may take a look at them and think that it’s just a cute kid talking enthusiastically about some product and not realize that it’s often part of a deliberate strategy to get their children excited about toys, or in the case of this study, unhealthy food,” said Josh Golin, the executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood.

“Young children view the stars of these videos as peers and friends and don’t understand that the reason YouTube stars like Ryan are so enthusiastic about products featured in there is because they are stealth marketers,” he added.

That last point is particularly noteworthy because young kids are especially susceptible to marketing. Studies have shown that children cannot distinguish between commercials and cartoons until they are eight or nine years old and that they are more likely to prefer junk food after seeing ads for them.

So when those ads are integrated into the videos kids are watching without any kind of disclosure or differentiation, everything just gets blended together even more, which can be especially potent when it comes to YouTube videos.

“My concern is that these ads may be like TV commercials on steroids,” said Bragg. “Kids watch on autoplay, which means they’ll see the same type of programming over and over again. Instead of 10 minutes of ads throughout a 30-minute TV show, they can end up seeing the same product over and over again.”

The idea that products promoted by children on YouTube could be an even more effective marketing technique than normal television ads targeted towards children is specifically distressing because that kind of advertising is in fact illegal on television.

For years, the FTC has long banned what is known as “host selling” on children’s television, which is where characters or hosts on a show try to sell products in commercials that air during those programs. However, those rules do not apply to YouTube, where hosts and characters can promote products during their shows.

While that practice has become commonplace, the issue becomes stickier when it comes to kids.

Next Steps

With these growing concerns, many people — including the authors of the study — have been calling for more regulation.

Some have specifically pointed to a piece of legislation proposed in March by Senators Ed Markey (D-Ma.) and Richard Blumenthal (D-Ct.) which, among other things, would limit what they called “manipulative” advertising, like influencer marketing aimed at kids. 

Even without legislation, the authors of the study also hope that the new awareness around kid influencers and junk food product placement brings change to the industry.

In a statement to The Times, Sunlight Entertainment, the production company for Ryan’s World, said that the channel, “cares deeply about the well-being of our viewers and their health and safety is a top priority for us. As such, we strictly follow all platforms terms of service, as well as any guidelines set forth by the FTC and laws and regulations at the federal, state, and local levels.”

“As we continue to evolve our content we look forward to ways we might work together in the future to benefit the health and safety of our audience,” the company said, adding that Ryan’s World welcomed the findings of the study.

However, without set regulations in place, it is unclear if Ryan’s World and other kid influencer channels will be held accountable, especially given their alleged track record of disobeying existing rules.

See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (CNN) (U.S. News & World Report)

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Jake Paul Believes COVID-19 Is a Hoax

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  • Internet star Jake Paul called COVID-19 a hoax, incorrectly compared it to the flu, called 98% of news fake, and doubted medical experts in an interview with The Daily Beast published Wednesday.
  • Many online slammed Paul for his misleading and false claims and praised the reporter, Marlow Stern, for repeatedly pushing back against them.
  • Readers also pointed to other notable moments in the interview as ones that expose Paul’s true character.

Jake Paul’s Thoughts on the Coronavirus Pandemic

YouTuber Jake Paul is facing major heat online after claiming that COVID-19 is a hoax in an interview with The Daily Beast.

During the interview, the outlet’s Senior Entertainment Editor, Marlow Stern, brought up the fact that Paul has hosted several parties throughout the coronavirus pandemic.

Stern cites a July report from Kat Tenbarge for Insider, which quoted Paul saying at the time, “I personally am not the type of person who’s gonna sit around and not live my life.”

When asked if he still lives by that mindset, Paul essentially explained that he does. “It’s time for us to open up,” he said.

“This is the most detrimental thing to our society. COVID cases are at less than 1 percent, and I think the disease is a hoax,” he added.

Paul went on to compare the virus to the flu, which Stern push back against in an interesting exchange.

Stern: You think the disease is a hoax? It’s killed about 260,000 people so far this year.
Paul: Ugh. Yeah, and so has the flu.
No. The flu has only killed a fraction of that, and we also have a vaccine for the flu.
OK.
The flu kills between 20,000 and 70,000 people a year. And we have a mass-produced vaccine for it.
Don’t we have a vaccine for COVID?
Not yet. They’re hopeful we will soon. It’s been approved by the FDA based on early-stage trials but it hasn’t been introduced to the market yet. So they’re hopeful that there will be a vaccine out very soon, although distribution also poses a big problem. But I want to talk about why you think COVID is a “hoax.”
I don’t have to elaborate.
You don’t want to elaborate on that?
[Deep sigh] No.

This section of the interview caught the most heat online, however, at a later point, Paul made more false and misleading claims about the virus, which Stern again corrected.

Paul also suggested he had doubts about the information coming from health professionals, saying: “I don’t think we do know who the health professionals are. People like yourself, or people who go on Twitter and read articles all day, you know, 98 percent of news is fake, so how do we know what’s actually real, and what we’re actually supposed to do?

Reactions

Shortly after the article was published, Twitter users and some fellow content creators slammed his remarks.

Other Notable Moments

However, the outrage isn’t solely about his coronavirus comments. In the interview, Paul also refused to comment on several of his past controversies, including the FBI raid on his home and his this use of the n-word.

He also faced criticism for remarks he made about his criminal trespassing and unlawful assembly charges. Those charges came after video appeared to show him participating in a looting at a mall in Scottsdale, Arizona during Black Lives Matter protests over the summer.

“It looked like people in your crew were both shooting fireworks at the mall and also destroying some store windows inside of it. Do you feel you conducted yourself appropriately in that situation?” Stern asked.

“I was merely a reporter simply, like you are in this call, wanting to capture, document, and record what was happening,” Paul responded.

At one point, he even became frustrated that Stern was asking him about his past controversies.

“How does asking about these incidents help you learn more about me?” Paul said. “You didn’t ask me, “Yo, do you have any hobbies?” “What are you like as a person?” “What is your daily routine?” “Do you call your mom?” “Do you have friends?”

“You want me to ask you if you have friends or call your mom?” Stern replied.

“I mean, if you actually wanted to learn more about me, yeah, those are the types of questions you would ask,” Paul explained.

To that, Stern noted that he did spend time asking Paul about his passion for boxing and defended his line of questions as fair.

Because of this, and other notable moments in the piece, many are saying the interview gives a good glimpse and Paul’s true character. Readers have also praised Stern for how he conducted the interview and repeatedly corrected Paul’s dangerous claims.

Read the full interview here: The Daily Beast

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Belle Delphine Calls Out YouTube for Double Standards After It Terminated Her Channel

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  • Social media creator Belle Delphine, who is known for her risqué content and viral marketing stunts, had her YouTube channel terminated Sunday “due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube’s policy on nudity or sexual content.”
  • Soon after, Delphine asked YouTube why she had been banned without receiving three strikes or any previous warnings. She also found it suspicious that YouTube would do this when it allows and promotes music videos for songs like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP.”
  • Fans agreed, comparing her content to other music videos on the site and calling it an example of YouTube’s uneven policy enforcement.
  • Team YouTube said it would take a look into what happened, but it’s unclear if the decision will be reversed.

Belle Delphine Banned From YouTube

Social media star Belle Delphine called out YouTube on Sunday for what appear to be double standards in the enforcement of its content guidelines.

Delphine is a cosplay Instagram model known for posting risqué content. She received a lot of attention last year after telling her followers she would make Pornhub account if she earned 1 million likes on a post. When she did, she trolled everyone with videos that looked like they would be porn but weren’t actually porn.

Others may recognize Delphine as the girl who sold her bathwater to “thirsty gamer boys” online.

This time, however, Delphine isn’t catching attention for one of her unique stunts. Instead, she tweeted Sunday, “Hey @TeamYouTube why was my youtube account terminated with no warning/no strikes for ‘sexual content’ when you allow and promote songs like ‘W.A.P’? seems a lil sus.”

Her remarks came the same day that her channel, which had 1.7 million followers, was shut down. A notice on her page confirmed that the ban was “due to multiple or severe violations of YouTube’s policy on nudity or sexual content.”

YouTube typically takes this kind of action after a channel earns three strikes, but Delphine’s post suggests this decision came suddenly.

Comparisons to Music Videos

Delphine’s tweet also included a video shared by Keemstar that seemed to have been originally posted by a user named Lord Vega. That video compares Delphine’s content to popular music videos that have been allowed on the platform without issue. In fact, in some cases, those videos have been promoted by YouTube on its trending page.

At one point, that comparison edit even shows Delphine’s June parody of “Gooba” by rapper 6ix9ine, which also served as a promo to her newly launched Instagram, TikTok, and OnlyFans accounts at the time.

The comparison essentially showed Delphine dressed and dancing in similar ways that women in the “Gooba” video were. The clip also shows other music videos from rappers like Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, who are also dressed and dancing provocatively.

With this in mind, many of Delphine’s fans agreed that YouTube wasn’t equally enforcing its policies.

In response to Delphine’s tweet, Team YouTube said it would look into the situation.

“Thanks for reaching out – mind sharing your channel URL so that we can take a look?” it said. “Keep us posted!”

As of now, it’s unclear if YouTube is planning on reversing its decision.

See what others are saying: (HITC) (GameRant) (PopBuzz)

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Twitch Apologizes for Mishandling Copyright Crackdowns After Months of Controversy

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  • Twitch has been contacting hundreds of users with copyright infringement notifications since June, but its inconsistent responses have been heavily criticized by streamers.
  • Before this massive influx of copyright claims, Twitch had no tool to let streamers mass-delete or even identify clips that contained copyrighted material. 
  • After complaints, it only implemented a tool that allows streamers to mass delete all of their old clips.
  • Now, Twitch is apologizing for its lack of transparency and for not putting more nuanced tools in place that allow streamers to manage their clip archives. 

Twitch Begins DMCA Strikes

Twitch apologized to its streamers on Wednesday after a months-long controversy involving its inconsistent response to copyright crackdowns on the platform. 

“Creators, we hear you,” the company said in a blogpost. “Your frustration and confusion with recent music-related copyright issues is completely justified. Things can — and should — be better for creators than they have been recently.”

The situation first began in early June when several popular Twitch streamers revealed that they had received multiple copyright strikes all at once. For those streamers, it was an unexpected and fear-inducing warning, as under normal rules, three infractions would result in their account being permanently deleted by Twitch. 

Many found it odd that some of the strikes were coming from clips that were years old — a fact that made it easier for long-time streamers to be hit multiple times.

Twitch streamer Leslie Fu, who goes by Fuslie and has over 500,000 followers on Twitch, received two strikes during that June crackdown: one for playing DNCE’S “Cake by the Ocean” and another for Ariana Grande’s “7 Rings.” After speaking with Twitch staff, she said they recommended that she delete all of her clips.

“On top of it being near impossible for me to delete >100,000 clips,” she said, “the creator dashboard isn’t loading any of my old clips. How am I supposed to protect myself here?”

“I’m willing to do anything to keep my channel, even if it means deleting all my clips and memories from the past years. I feel so helpless right now. I’ve built this channel up for 5 years and to potentially lose it all so fast to something like this would be devastating.” 

As far as what appeared to be happening, it seemed like music companies were sending Twitch takedown notices related to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act — notices that Twitch had no choice but to respond to unless it wanted to be sued. 

Like Fuslie pointed out, Twitch’s response on how to fully correct the situation wasn’t exactly transparent. Many others also asked why Twitch couldn’t just mute the parts of their clips that contained copyrighted music.

As the situation unfolded, Twitch Support tweeted that it had, in fact, received a sudden influx of DMCA takedown requests, most related to clips from 2017 to 2019.

Similar to how Fuslie characterized her interaction with Twitch staff, the support account advised streamers to remove any clips they believed might violate copyright law. 

We know many of you have large archives, and we’re working to make this easier,” the account said. 

A few days later, Twitch Support said the company would begin using a program that could identify clips that might contain copyrighted music. It noted that those clips would then be deleted without penalty to streamers.

At the same time, Twitch said it was working on implementing a tool that would help streamers to be able to more easily delete all their clips at once. 

October Wave of DMCA Takedowns

In October, streamers faced another wave of DMCA takedown notices, but this time, they received a much different warning. In a blanket email, Twitch told affected streamers that it had identified and deleted all flagged copyrighted clips, without issuing any strikes. 

“We recognize that by deleting this content, we are not giving you the option to file a counter-notification or seek a retraction from the rights holder,” the email read. “In consideration of this, we have processed these notifications and are issuing you a one-time warning to give you the chance to learn about copyright law and the tools available to manage the content on your channel.”

Unlike earlier notices, these didn’t contain any information about what copyrighted work had been violated, who the claimant was, or how to contact them.

Jessica Blevins, FaZe Mongraal, and LIRIK were among a plethora of notable streamers who received this notice. Like LIRIK, many other popular streamers were confused by the warning and did not understand what aspect of their content had violated copyright law. 

With this notice, Twitch also told streamers that they had until Oct. 23 to find and delete any possible copyrighted material. After that, it would “resume the normal processing of DMCA takedowns.”

Because of that warning, many streamers began purging clips from their channel entirely, even if they hadn’t received this email. That included Pokimane, who said she deleted more than six years of clips and memories.

“It is INSANE that @Twitch informs partners they deleted their content – and that there is more content in violation despite having NO identification system to find out what it is,” one streamer, Devin Nash, said. “Their solution to DMCA is for creators to delete their life’s work. This is pure, gross negligence.”

On Nov. 2, Clix — a Fortnite streamer with 2.6 million followers — tweeted that he had received two DMCA strikes.

“One more and i’m banned forever,” he said. “I did everything they told me to legit all my vods and clips.”

The same day, another streamer by the name of SquishyMuffinz reported that he had been banned altogether. While that ban was overturned a couple of hours later, he eventually deleted every single video from his channel out of fear of another ban. 

Twitch Apologizes for Mishandling DMCA Takedowns

In its Wednesday apology, Twitch admitted that it should have made that October warning email much “more informative and helpful,” conceding that it had provided “frustratingly little information.” 

You’re rightly upset that the only option we provided was a mass deletion tool for Clips, and that we only gave you three-days notice to use this tool,” the company said. “We could have developed more sophisticated, user-friendly tools awhile ago. That we didn’t is on us. And we could have provided creators with a longer time period to address their VOD and Clip libraries – that was a miss as well.” 

“We’re truly sorry for these mistakes, and we’ll do better.” 

Before May of this year, Twitch said “streamers received fewer than 50 music-related DMCA notifications each year” on the platform. Since then, it has been receiving “thousands of DMCA notifications each week” from major record labels, something it doesn’t expect to slow down. 

“This means two things: 1) if you play recorded music on your stream, you need to stop doing that and 2) if you haven’t already, you should review your historical VODs and Clips that may have music in them and delete any archives that might,” the company went on to say.

Among the next steps Twitch says it’s taking, that includes expanding its technology to be able to detect copyrighted audio, introducing “more granular ways to manage your archive,” and giving streamers the ability to review which clips were hit with DMCA notices to help them more easily file counter-claims. 

See what others are saying: (The Verge) (PC Gamer) (IGN)

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