Prominent Consumer and Child advocacy groups file today a complaint to ask the FTC to investigate the new Youtube Kids app for deceptive targeting young kids with ads.
The recently launched Youtube Kids app could backfire big for Google if the FTC finds violations. Several consumer and child advocacy groups file a complaint today asking the FTC to investigate Youtube Kids for unfair and deceptive advertising to toddlers.
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The complaint identifies specific questionable advertising in the Youtube Kids app including branded channels including that of McDonald's. Another key issue raised are the supposedly lacking separation between shows and ads.
Lastly, a favorite category with my sons, user generated unboxing videos of toys are in the focus of the FTC complaint. The complaint says that Youtube allows brands to publish sponsored unboxing videos that are not distinguishable from original unboxing video like from the very popular EvanTube channel.
Google launched the Youtube Kids app on February 23 with the promise to parents that this is a saver way for kids to consume Youtube videos. The FTC complaint starts out with "We downloaded the Youtube Kids app onto an Android tablet, an iPad and iPhone. As we examined the content, we were troubled by the large amount of commercial material that was presented as programming."
By wrapping Youtube content inside an app that is supposed to be save for kids, Google made itself vulnerable to live up to those promises. Youtube is in general a wild place. I am actually surprised that the recommendation engine works stunningly well to keep my sons away from bad material. Since they are old enough (4 and 6) to select the next video they want to watch, they chose from what Youtube is listing as related. When they watch the classic Chip and Dale cartoons, they find more of these instead of adult material or spam.
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The 60 page FTC complaint has been published by the San Jose Mercury News in full.