You are here: Home » International » News » Companies
Business Standard

Lawmakers call YouTube Kids a 'wasteland of vapid' content: Details here

A House subcommittee is investigating YouTube Kids, saying the Google-owned video feeds children inappropriate material in "a wasteland of vapid, consumerist content" so it can serve them ads

Topics
YouTube Ads | YouTube | YouTube India

AP  |  Washington 

Photo: Reuters

A House subcommittee is investigating Kids, saying the Google-owned video feeds children inappropriate material in "a wasteland of vapid, consumerist content" so it can serve them

The inquiry comes despite agreeing to pay USD 170 million in 2019 to settle allegations that collected personal data on children without their parents' consent.

In a letter sent Tuesday to CEO Susan Wojcicki, the US House Oversight and Reform subcommittee on economic and consumer policy said YouTube does not do enough to protect kids from material that could harm them.

Instead it relies on artificial intelligence and creators' self-regulation to decide what videos make it on to the platform, according to the letter.

And despite changes in the wake of the 2019 settlement, the letter notes, YouTube Kids still shows to children. But instead of basing it on kids' online activity, it now targets it based on the videos they are watching.

YouTube did not immediately respond to a message for comment.

The congressional investigation comes a year into the pandemic that has shuttered schools and left parents who are working from home increasingly reliant on services such as YouTube to keep kids occupied.

This has led to a rethinking of screen time" rules and guilt over the amount of time kids spend in front of screens, with some experts recommending that parents focus on quality, not quantity.

But lawmakers say YouTube Kids is anything but quality.

YouTube Kids spends no time or effort determining the appropriateness of content before it becomes available for children to watch, the letter says.

YouTube Kids allows content creators to self-regulate.

YouTube only asks that they consider factors including the subject matter of the video, whether the video has an emphasis on kids characters, themes, toys or games, and more.

Kids under 13 are protected by a 1998 federal law that requires parental consent before can collect and share their personal information.

Under the 2019 settlement, agreed to work with video creators to label material aimed at kids. It said it would limit data collection when users view such videos, regardless of their age.

But lawmakers say even after the settlement, YouTube Kids, which launched in 2015, continued to exploit loopholes and advertise to children.

While it does not target based on viewer interests the way the main YouTube service does, it tracks information about what kids are watching in order to recommend videos. It also collects personally identifying device information.

There are also other, sneaky ways ads are reaching children. A high volume" of kids' videos, the letter says, smuggle hidden marketing and advertising with product placements by children's influencers," who are often children themselves.

YouTube does not appear to be trying to prevent such problematic marketing," the letter says. The House research team found that only 4 per cent of videos it looked at had a high educational value" offering developmentally appropriate material.

The kids app has helped turn YouTube into an increasingly more attractive outlet for the advertising sales that generate most of the profits for and its corporate parent, Alphabet.

YouTube brought in nearly USD 20 billion in ad revenue last year, more than doubling from its total just three years ago. The video site now accounts for about 13 per cent of Google's total ad sales, up from slightly more than 8 per cent in 2017.

The House subcommittee is recommending YouTube turn off advertisements completely for kids aged 7 and under. It also asks that it give parents the ability to turn off the autoplay" feature, which is not currently possible (though parents are able to set a timer to limit their kids' video watching).

The lawmakers are asking YouTube to provide them with information on YouTube Kids' top videos, channels and revenue information, as well as average time spent and number of videos watched, per user, among other information.

(Only the headline and picture of this report may have been reworked by the Business Standard staff; the rest of the content is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

Dear Reader,


Business Standard has always strived hard to provide up-to-date information and commentary on developments that are of interest to you and have wider political and economic implications for the country and the world. Your encouragement and constant feedback on how to improve our offering have only made our resolve and commitment to these ideals stronger. Even during these difficult times arising out of Covid-19, we continue to remain committed to keeping you informed and updated with credible news, authoritative views and incisive commentary on topical issues of relevance.
We, however, have a request.

As we battle the economic impact of the pandemic, we need your support even more, so that we can continue to offer you more quality content. Our subscription model has seen an encouraging response from many of you, who have subscribed to our online content. More subscription to our online content can only help us achieve the goals of offering you even better and more relevant content. We believe in free, fair and credible journalism. Your support through more subscriptions can help us practise the journalism to which we are committed.

Support quality journalism and subscribe to Business Standard.

Digital Editor

First Published: Wed, April 07 2021. 07:29 IST
RECOMMENDED FOR YOU
.