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Child consumer groups file complaint with FTC against YouTube for targeting children in ads

Child advocacy groups filed a complaint with the FTC against Google-owned YouTube for targeting kids in ads. The groups claim YouTube is violating the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. COPPA is a law that protects the privacy of children under 13. (Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

Nearly two dozen child consumer and advocacy groups filed a joint complaint on Monday with the Federal Trade Commission, urging it to investigate and sanction Google-owned YouTube for allegedly allowing advertisers to target children, which violates the 1998 Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. COPPA is a law that protects the privacy of children under 13.

YouTube claims the site is for ages 13 and up, but the complaint alleges that "Google generates significant profits from kid-targeted advertising."

“Google has acted duplicitously by falsely claiming in its terms of service that YouTube is only for those who are age 13 or older, while it deliberately lured young people into an ad-filled digital playground,” said Jeff Chester of the Center for Digital Democracy. “Just like Facebook, Google has focused its huge resources on generating profits instead of protecting privacy.”


What else does the complaint say?

Twenty-three organizations signed the complaint, which claimed that YouTube is both the "most-loved and most-recognized brand" among 6- to 12-year-olds and the platform offers many programs designed for kids.

The complaint noted ChuChu TV Nursery Rhymes & Kids Songs and LittleBabyBum were among the child-oriented channels that had billions of channel views.

According to the complaint, Google "makes substantial profits" collecting personal information on kids without parental consent including location, unique device identifiers, and mobile telephone numbers, which it uses to target children through online advertisements.

"For years, Google has abdicated its responsibility to kids and families by disingenuously claiming YouTube — a site rife with popular cartoons, nursery rhymes and toy ads — is not for children under 13," said Josh Golin of the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, one of the groups filing the complaint.

What did YouTube say?

YouTube "will read the complaint thoroughly and evaluate if there are things we can do to improve. Because YouTube is not for children, we've invested significantly in the creation of the YouTube Kids app to offer an alternative specifically designed for children," a Google spokesman said in a statement to Agence France-Presse.

What did the FTC say?

FTC spokeswoman Juliana Gruenwald Henderson told AFP that the agency looks forward to reviewing the letter.

What else?

Children who identify themselves as being under the age of 13 are blocked from creating a YouTube channel.

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