By Sahil Patel
Some children’s groups are not happy with the new YouTube Kids app, which was launched by the video giant in February to provide families with a place to watch content in a protected environment.
In a complaint filed to the Federal Trade Commission, several consumer and children’s advocacy groups, including the Center of Digital Democracy, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Consumers Union, allege that YouTube Kids violates several broadcasting rules and regulations when it comes to advertising on kids’ content.
Specifically, the groups are accusing Google and YouTube of blurring the lines between original content and ads — especially as it pertains to the genre of “unboxing” videos.
By hosting videos that feature creators unpacking and showing off toys, the groups argue that Google is violating the FTC’s “Guide Concerning the Use of Testimonials in Advertising,” which requires that individuals endorsing products on TV to disclose if they were paid to do that. “Many of the video segments endorsing toys, candy, and other products that appear to be ‘user-generated’ have undisclosed relationships with product manufacturers in violation of the FTC’s guidelines concerning the use of endorsements and testimonials in advertising,” reads the complaint.
Another issue is the presence of advertisers on the app. According to Google’s own rules for YouTube Kids, advertising for “products related to consumable food and drinks are prohibited, regardless of nutrition content” — and yet, McDonald’s has a branded channel on YouTube Kids. These channels mix “branded content” that promote products and goods with straight ads that promote products and goods, the complaint argues.
In response to the complaint, a YouTube spokesperson told Reuters: “We worked with numerous partners and child advocacy groups when developing YouTube Kids. While we are always open to feedback on ways to improve the app, we were not contacted directly by the signers of this letter and strongly disagree with their contentions.”