Creators as Operators: an Examination of the Effects of the COPPA Rule Application on the YouTube Kid’s Content Ecosystem
YouTube is a video-sharing website and application consisting of user-generated content (UGC), formally restricted to people 13 and older. However, its popularity with a younger audience has been knowingly growing, and in September 2019, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) claimed that YouTube illegally collected personal information from children without their parents' consent, violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). To settle the allegations, Google and YouTube were required to pay a $170 million fine and implement a system to obligate channel owners to identify if their content is child-directed.
This study is comprised of an extensive literature review and a detailed content analysis of comments, videos, official communications, and documents related to the settlement, aiming to identify the potential impacts on the various actors and uncover opportunities to improve this policy implementation in the future. The results demonstrate that both creators and parents expect that children's content creators will suffer a significant reduction in their ability to generate revenue and, consequently, be discouraged from starting or continuing to create children content, either abandoning their channels or switching their content strategies toward an older audience. The results also indicate that female creators are at higher risk of being affected.
Overall, these findings support the notion that the COPPA rule’s implementation will harm children's content creators' abilities to build a career, contributing to the return of the status quo ante, where big companies dominate children content's production, and will also potentialize gender inequality on media. Furthermore, by reducing the availability of appropriate content on YouTube, it will undermine parents' ability to make choices, and their children will either lose access to online content or be exposed to more mature videos and ads. Thus, there is a need to find a balance between protecting children's online privacy and preserving the platforms' sustainability, to contribute to the universal access to diverse and high-quality digital resources for children.
- Master of Digital Media
- Digital Media
Granting InstitutionRyerson University
LAC Thesis Type