Throughout its history, YouTube has stubbornly maintained that it’s a site aimed at users 13 and over, freeing the platform from obtaining parental consent to track user data. Yet the FTC’s investigation found that Google had been touting YouTube’s popularity with children to toy brands like Mattel and Hasbro in order to sell ads, including the assertion that YouTube is the No. 1 website regularly visited by kids.
The FTC’s fine is arguably a pittance of what Google owes. Though it may be a record-breaking fine for the organization, as Recode’s Peter Kafka explains, $170 million is basically “a rounding error” in YouTube’s profit, which could reach around $20 billion this year. Two of the FTC’s five commissioners voted against the settlement, with one arguing the fine should have been in the billions.
One of the biggest concerns is that much of this content is driven by algorithms, rather than the recommendations of educational specialists.
Maybe, though, the problem isn’t that the YouTube algorithm serves up stupid or bad videos to kids, but that an algorithm is in charge of what kids are watching at all. Toddlers are always going to click on the video with the brightest, most bonkers thumbnail with words they might recognize. Moving kids’ content to separate streaming apps — made specifically for children, with fewer commercials, more gatekeepers in charge of quality control, and fair, clear payment structures — seems like a change for good.
Alexis Madrigal (‘James Bridle (‘ ‘) also unpack some of the issues associated with YouTube.‘) and