The company has secretly announced plans to launch its YouTube Kids service on the web, ahead of the formal announcement of an FTC settlement that could require YouTube to direct under-13-year-old users to a separate experience for YouTube’s children-friendly content.
Previously, to reach the filtered YouTube version, parents will have to download the YouTube Kids app to a mobile device.
The company is ready for an FTC settlement’s possible outcome by adding YouTube Kids to the internet, which will require the company to introduce an age-gate on its website, then redirect under-13-year-olds to a different child-friendly experience.
In addition, a new filter for YouTube Kids allows parents to set the content to be pre-school-appropriate. Android Police first noticed the announcement, which was released in the YouTube Support forums.
It is unclear whether by posting the news to a website rather than its official YouTube site, YouTube was deliberately trying to prevent these changes from being reported by a wider audience (or the press). (The company tells us that on the forum site, it publishes a lot of news. Sure, all right. But for such a crucial announcement, it seems an unusual destination with an FTC settlement looming.)
It’s also worthy of note that YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki published her quarterly update for YouTube creators about the same time as the news was released.
The update is intended to keep creators aware of what YouTube and its community have in store. But her missive talked exclusively of the importance of being an open forum this quarter and did not focus on anything relevant to children’s content or investigation by the U.S. regulator.
Nevertheless, when it comes to their children viewing YouTube videos, it’s precisely the stance of YouTube on “openness” that worries parents. The (nearly) “everything goes” the site’s existence means that children can easily stumble on material that is too mature, divisive, hateful, extreme, or offensive.
The YouTube Kids app is intended to provide a safer destination, but each video that makes its way there is not manually checked by YouTube. That has led on multiple occasions to inappropriate and upsetting material abusing the system and eroding parents’ confidence.
Since many parents don’t believe that YouTube Kids’ algorithms can properly filter content, last fall, the platform added parents’ ability in the Kids app to whitelist particular videos or channels.
The “Younger” content-level filter, which was previously 8 and under, is further split into two sections by YouTube. “Younger” refers to ages 5 and 7 from now on, while the current “Preschool” filter is for ages 4 and below. “The latter will concentrate on videos that encourage, says YouTube,” creativity, whimsy, learning, and exploration.
The improvements in YouTube Kids are significant because they signal that before an FTC settlement declaration, YouTube is putting things in place that will influence how the business treats children’s content and its ongoing use by young children.
As Musical.ly (TikTok) was previously in this year, the FTC will likely sanction youTube for its COPPA violations. One article, citing unidentified sources, claims that, in fact, the FTC’s YouTube settlement has already been finalized and includes a multimillion-dollar penalty.
YouTube will also be forced to introduce an age-gate on its website and in its applications that will guide under-13-year-olds instead of YouTube to the YouTube Kids network. In addition, the settlement may compel YouTube to stop targeting advertisements on videos aimed at kids, as Bloomberg has reported.
Ahead of the 2020 Labor Day weekend, we likely won’t see the FTC trying to make a statement about its ruling. Still, it could do so in advance of its October workshop centred on refining the COPPA rule. This event has the regulator searching for input about how to manage sites like YouTube adequately.