Online Gambling Serial Blog – Regulations Dealing with Online Promotions to Children (Blog Post 7 of 7)

Since online gambling in the United States has caused many legal uncertainties, including how individual states have dealt with various online gambling issues and how the advancements in internet-based technologies have created uncertainty enforcing online gambling issues, it is necessary for there to be more clear rules and regulations regarding legal issues relating to online gambling in the United States. This blog will discuss various online gambling issues in a seven-part serial blog. The seventh blog post will step away from online gambling issues and focus in on how regulators are dealing with advertisements and promotions directed towards children.

How Americans, especially children, consume media has changed dramatically in recent years. The regulatory framework for advertising to children, however, has not changed very much since the 1990s. [1] Mobile devices, such as smart phone and tablets, are a major platform for reaching young people because children tend to be avid users of these devices. A Nielsen survey found that if these devices are available in a household, 69% of children aged 8 to 10 use them. [1] Another study found that children prefer watching and spend more time viewing video on hand-held devices than on television. [1]

Many children watch YouTube even though YouTube’s terms of service explicitly state it “is not intended for children under 13. If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the Service.” [1] A survey done in 2014 found that 66% of children aged 6 to 12 visit YouTube daily, including 72% of 6 to 8-year-olds. [1] Much of the content initially available on YouTube consisted of “user-generated” videos produced by amateurs. Typical examples include videos of cats, cute babies, and people playing video games. Over time, many of these video creators built up a large following. They have come to be known as “YouTube celebrities” or “influencers.” [3] Young people especially tend to follow YouTube celebrities more than traditional celebrities. [4] Brands collaborate with influencers because “they certainly know how to grab the power of social media and use their credibility to affect their followers’ views (and even their purchasing decisions). [5] Influencer marketing works because “[p]eople value influencers for their authenticity, as their endorsement matters to them and this helps a brand increase its human element of the wider marketing strategy.” [5]

The Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) and the FTC are the two government agencies primarily responsible for regulating advertising to children. However, each agency enforces different laws, has different means of developing policies and rules, and uses different enforcement methods. [1] The regulatory efforts of the FCC and the FTC are supplemented, to a limited extent, by industry self-regulation. [1]

FCC rules apply only to television delivered by means of broadcast, cable, and satellite television. They do not apply to motion pictures (even if shown on television), video games, or online videos. [1] The FCC’s children’s advertising policies have not changed much since 1974. [1] Congress passed the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act of 1998 (“COPPA”). [1] A major purpose of COPPA was to limit advertising targeted to children by prohibiting the collection, use, and dissemination of personal information from children without informed, advance parental consent. [1] Section 5 of the Federal Trade Commission Act gives the FTC the power to prevent deceptive and unfair marketing practices in interstate commerce, regardless of the medium employed.  [2]

Using influencer videos that do not appear to be advertising takes unfair advantage of children’s cognitive inability to appreciate the nature and purpose of advertising. [1] Because children naturally love toys and characters, market forces cannot be relied on to protect children from excessive, deceptive, or unfair advertising. [1]

Currently, Google facilitates influencer marketing on YouTube in several ways. The YouTube Partners Program allows creators to monetize content on YouTube by letting Google stream advertisements in exchange for a portion of the advertising revenue. [6] Recently, YouTube has been accused of violating child protection laws in the US, by a collection of 23 consumers, child safety and privacy advocacy groups. [7] The coalition has filed a complaint with the FTC alleging that YouTube collects data from children aged under 13. [7] The group alleges that YouTube collects location data and the browsing habits of its users – even if they are children – and uses it to target advertising. [7] Google said its advertiser tools did not include the option to target advertisements at under-13s. It also said it offered the YouTube Kids app “specifically designed for children”. [7]

New legislation will be required to protect children from excessive and deceptive marketing practices in the digital environment. That legislation should provide ample legal authority, resources, and the political support for the FCC, FTC, or perhaps some other agency, to develop new rules and enforce them across all platforms.

Academics who study marketing to children are finding that existing regulations are ineffective in a digital environment and have called on policy makers to take action. For example, one study concluded that the “nature of contemporary advertising demands a radical revision of our conceptualization of ‘fair’ marketing to children,” and urged policy makers “to reconsider policies and regulations concerning child-directed advertising.” [1]

Do you think YouTube should be held responsible for advertisements placed in front of viewers under the age of 13 when a lot of the content on YouTube seems to be directed toward younger audiences? What potential legislation do you think should be in place to limit the effects of “influencers” on susceptible children? These are some interesting questions that have to be answered as the digital age has greatly changed the way younger Americans are influenced by advertisements on a daily basis.

[1] https://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2969&context=facpub

[2] Federal Trade Commission Act, 15 U.S.C. §45(a)(1)

[3] https://www.clickz.com/2016/04/12/how-can-a-brand-benefit-from-influencer-marketing

[4] http://variety.com/2015/digital/news/youtubers-teen-survey-ksi- pewdiepie-1201544882/

[5] http://www.hashtagbrandofme.com/

[6] https://support.google.com/youtube/topic/6029709?hl=en&ref_topic=14965

[7] http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-43699233

 

 

 

 

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~ by zachg0963 on April 14, 2018.

9 Responses to “Online Gambling Serial Blog – Regulations Dealing with Online Promotions to Children (Blog Post 7 of 7)”

  1. If it can be shown that the software Google is using actually is collected and directing data at children under 13 then they should be liable. However, like was stated in the post the YouTube terms of service say that it is not intended for children under 13 and that have created a YouTube for kids then they are making efforts minimal efforts to avoid underage use of the site. No one really follows the advised age for use of a website but if the data collected is targeted at a younger population simply because a younger population is using the website I am unsure how that is the fault of YouTube. I do not think passing legislation would change anything, if the concern is to keep kids under 13 off the cite they should require some sort of age verification to log in.

  2. YouTube probably should be held responsible for ads placed in front of young (sub-13) viewers, even though a lot of the website’s content seems to be directed towards younger audiences, primarily because YouTube has already made some efforts to prevent kids from having free reign over the site. As the internet evolves, YouTube (and the like) are going to have to evolve, too, and since kids are growing up with computers in a way that makes the internet even more second nature than it is to our generation, YouTube can’t just rely on having a “kids” app or parental settings to take care of the issue and never look back at the issue. I don’t have an answer to this, but I do have a nephew who at age 4 was able to get around parental controls on YouTube. The growth of “influencers,” while useful for companies, makes branding and advertising almost subliminal. These things need to be considered with kids in mind.

  3. Do you think YouTube should be held responsible for advertisements placed in front of viewers under the age of 13 when a lot of the content on YouTube seems to be directed toward younger audiences?
    I do not think that YouTube should be held responsible, because as noted in it’s Terms of Service, it “is not intended for children under 13. If you are under 13 years of age, then please do not use the Service.” Therefore, it should not be held liable for parents’ decisions to allow their children who are under 13 to use YouTube. This is suggesting that private actors should take on the responsibility of parents. There are many parents who allow their children to watch ABC videos or episodes from YouTube celebrities on YouTube, but that is a decision that parent is making for that child. And in making that decision, parents take on the risk of their child also being exposed to advertisements and content that is above their child’s maturity level. However, I think all of this can be handled in the home. The parent is in charge of what devices their child uses and has access to, the apps on those devices, and parental controls.
    Additionally, there is an app, specifically designed for this age called YouTube Kids so as to avoid this exposure. Perhaps YouTube could be held liable for advertisements on this app, because I suppose in their Terms of Service, it makes some reference to the content being okay for children.

    What potential legislation do you think should be in place to limit the effects of “influencers” on susceptible children?
    I do not think any legislation should be in place, because as mentioned above, it is up to the parents to determine what their children have access to. Placing this responsibility on the legislature is essentially a violation of the fundamental right of a parent to raise their child. This, I believe, would create even more litigation from disgruntled parents.

  4. I had no idea that 72% of children aged 6-8 visit Youtube daily. This is shocking to me. Clearly this is evidence of how little I know about this topic, but my instinct is that with all that’s changed in advertising strategies since 1974 (the last revision of the FCC’s children’s advertising policies), the law could do for an update.

    If I find myself uninformed on this issue, I can’t imagine that Congress would be much more knowledgeable. For this reason, I’d be in favor of some sort of investigatory committee to be tasked with making recommendations on how to harmonize FCC and FTC regulations on advertising, perhaps even with the specific concern of advertisements to children in mind.

  5. I agree with another commenter that if it can be shown that Youtube and Google are specifically targeting children under the age of 13, then they should be held liable. Obviously there is a shared responsibility between the websites and the parents of the children, but when sites are affirmatively collecting data from these children and targeting them in advertisement, they should be held responsible legally.

  6. Do you think YouTube should be held responsible for advertisements placed in front of viewers under the age of 13 when a lot of the content on YouTube seems to be directed toward younger audiences?

    I think it has become painfully obvious that most, if not all, social media platforms tend to regulate their platforms to a minimum because it is in line with financial interest. For instance, Facebook was very slow to react during the recent election because doing so would have stymied a significant cash flow. With al the user tracking that Facebook does it is challenging to see how they couldn’t have known. I think the same reasoning applies to YouTube, whose parent company Google, is well known to track users as well. While they will never openly admit they are being negligent in their enforcement against the data collection and aggregation of children’s online habits, it is likely that this is occurring. This is particularly true because it is equally obvious that the majority of individuals who are very active users of YouTube are adolescents.

    What potential legislation do you think should be in place to limit the effects of “influencers” on susceptible children?

    I think if an “influencer” (…really?) is receiving either financial remuneration or alternatively some in-kind form of payment (comped hotel rooms, products, etc.) they should have to disclose such in their videos. When an add is run on TV, it is painfully obvious that it is an add because the network wouldn’t run an add for free. Conversely, YouTube personalities are able to mislead users into thinking their suggestion is based on their personal affinity for an item or a company based on their non-disclosure of the source of remuneration. This is not solve the issue of kids being targeted, but it is a step in the right direction.

  7. Our generation has the unique and distinct characteristic of growing up with technology and information at our fingertips. My parents and grandparents couldn’t tell you what internet parental controls were. I think increasingly parents will have greater knowledge and monitoring capabilities because we are more familiar with the internet. That being said, entertainment providers, whether they be apps, websites, or other electronic media, have a responsibility to protect children as well. Youtube should be held liable for their content under FTC regulations, and the FCC is long overdue for an update if television is the only media they can regulate.

    I am a bit concerned with first ammendment violations with these “influencers.” While youtube may be seen as entertainment, it can also be viewed as a public forum, whereas other forms of media are not as public. Censoring an influencers opinion is dangerous and may lead to the end of the internet as we know it (or so I hear).

  8. Children and the internet is such a different phenomenon from what these agencies were accustomed to dealing. I do believe the FTC, in particular was caught off guard when thinking through regulation. And initially, there were quite a few entities worrying about the advertisers too much and not worrying about the children enough. I’m pretty sure it was YouTube that created a “children’s” YouTube channel that would be safe for those 12 and under. The content on it ended up being horrific. Vulgar, and abusive videos and predatory advertising all over the place. Eventually YouTube realized they had to do better. I think it’s hilarious YouTube would have a warning that says if you are not 13, do not watch this. How exactly would that prevent a child from accessing content. When my grandchild was 7, he already knew how to create an account when his mother wasn’t watching and he knows math (!) so he knew to make his “date of birth” high enough not to have kid restrictions. I did yell at his mother for that. But really, it’s an example of how children can be vulnerable, particularly if they aren’t as savvy as my grand kid.

  9. Youtube should definitely be on the hook for the material they allow on their site and how it is marketed to children. The recent case of Youtube celebrities like Jake Paul who created questionable content in Japan and was not taken down immediately because of his large following shows that corporations are putting profits over the influence these videos can have on 13 year olds. Youtube has attempted to create Youtube Kids but questionable content still makes it through to the children.

    I believe new legislation could be passed to put the onus on corporations like Youtube to better monitor the content that goes on their websites. Whether it be fines or other sanctions for allowing the material to go through. I believe it was an earlier blog post that mentioned the use of skins to gamble, young children do not fully grasp what it may be and the duty of these companies should be to ensure that they are not allowing “influencers” to have a negative impact on the development of children.

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