Google Contests Allegations Regarding YouTube Kids App

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According to The Guardian, Google is facing allegations from watchdog groups of using “unfair and deceptive marketing practices” in its YouTube Kids app. The groups protest that video selection within the application expose children to content that they would not normally see.

Aaron Mackey, staff attorney for the Georgetown Law’s Institute for Public Representation, filed the complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Mackey accuses Google of taking advantage of YouTube Kids to show children extra advertisements. He explained to The Guardian that Google shows kids advertisement after advertisements without revealing to the public that they have certain agreements with companies. “And they just pop up on the screen in front of their kids, who are going to be served a lot of ads and not know the difference,” Mackey stated.

A representative from Google denies the allegations. The representative expressed that Google has worked with many partners and child advocacy groups in the process of creating YouTube Kids and defended that the company is open to any suggestions regarding how to make the app better. The Google representative continued to state that the accusers did not report anything to the company and strongly disagree with their arguments.

Via Google Play
Via Google Play

The YouTube Kids app was released in February and Google describes it as a product designed for curious little minds. Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry are some of the organizations that signed the complaint and believe that YouTube Kids varies advertising and programming in a way that would not meet broadcast and cable television regulations.

According to the Google play website, the app is constructed in a way that makes it easy to use and contains appropriate videos, channels, and playlists for young children. Google expressed that they are concerned with children’s safety just as much as their parents. YouTube Kids uses the input received from users and automated analysis to screen out any videos that are considered to be inappropriate.

Despite these precautions mentioned, dissenters of YouTube Kids believe Google is not thinking in the best interest for children. USA Today reports that Josh Golin, with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, states the app is not child-friendly in any shape or form because it shows a constant flow of advertising that confuses young ones into thinking that its programming.

He went on to say that the app’s ad policy is misleading. An example of this is the policy regarding food and beverage advertisements. Google states in the policy the company does not support food and beverage advertisements, but McDonald’s has it’s own channel on the site, which includes happy meals. Dan Moskowitz, who is a father in San Francisco with two children under the age of 5, said in an interview with USA Today that YouTube Kids creeped him out. The “first screen shows a plethora of paid kids television programs and characters,” exactly the sort of thing he works to protect his children from, Moskowitz said.

Mackey’s complaint also addresses the recent phenomenon known as “unboxing” videos. These are videos of people opening boxes that contain different products. Google received over 20 million searches for “unboxing” videos.

The complaint views unboxing as Google’s attempt to encourage advertisers to think how this method can build a connection with consumers. This practice in the complainants’ view conflict with the FTC’S “Guide Concerning the Use of Testimonials in Advertising.” The guide states “When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement, such connection must be fully disclosed.”

The complaint also cites the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), the entity that regulates various types of communications such as broadcasting and cable. Even though digital media is excluded from the organization’s supervision, the complaint notes the FCC considers these advertisements to children as unfair and the complaint goes on to reference psychiatric studies that demonstrate kids do not have the ability to tell advertising from programming.

Featured Image Via Google


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