While YouTube has always been a fairly vast library of digital content for people of all ages, most would agree that there was no clear focus on kids and that YouTube as a platform had no real delivery system for for children’s content in an easy to consume way. That all changed back in February of 2015 when Google announced and finally launched the YouTube Kids application which would be centered around delivering children focused and friendly content including a collection of children’s TV shows and other similar digital media. Now consumer groups are reported to be claiming that YouTube Kids is unfairly and deceptively mixing in advertisements with digital content in a way that it isn’t as easily recognizable.
While no formal complaint has yet been filed with the Federal Trade Commission on the matter, according to the NY Times the concerned consumer groups are expected and likely to file a formal complaint with the FTC as early as today. According to regulations with advertising on TV, ads must be distinguishable from the content kids are watching or it is deemed as otherwise unfair and deceptive. The problem according to those complaining about the advertisement methods in YouTube Kids content is that products and advertisements are being pushed by cartoon characters in the shows kids are watching, which is unfairly deceptive and a standard that has already been classified as illegal on television programming, yet not digital media.
In addition to complaints about ad placement and product advertisement within the content children are watching, they direct attention to specific channels for brands and products associated with children like Barbie, Fischer Price and McDonalds that are available within YouTube Kids, which they claim are more along the lines of advertisements and commercials spanning the length of actual content to make it seem like regular programming. The complaint is the same here with these channels as it is for the advertisements placed within the other content that is indistinguishable, that these program length commercials as they’re being called, aren’t labeled as ads or commercials. According to a response from Google, the complaint has gone unnoticed to them up until now, but are not opposed to feedback and are more than open to looking at ways to improve the application.