FTC asked to look into claim that YouTube is targeting children with adverts

7 Apr 2015

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is looking into allegations that Google-owned YouTube and its Kids app are deceptively targeting children with adverts on mobile devices.

According to claims by a coalition of children’s advocacy groups, YouTube is by-passing laws established for TV networks in the 1970s that ban things like product placement and adverts placed in programming due to children’s inability to discern advertising from programmes.

The group will be sending a letter addressing the issues to the FTC seeking to get their insight as to whether the app launched in February was breaking the law by having channel content provided by major corporations including McDonalds and Mattel alongside content curated as being safe for children to view.

According to Reuters, the letter goes on to highlight a number of examples where characters in these corporate-backed shows are shown in cartoon form alongside the products they are trying to sell.

“The videos provided to children on YouTube Kids intermix commercial and other content in ways that are deceptive and unfair to children and would not be permitted to be shown on broadcast or cable television,” says the letter.

The group has also raised issues over whether the user-generated content features examples of paid-for endorsements that have not been made clear from the start.

A spokesperson for YouTube has commented on the allegations and refuted all claims made by Chester and says it consulted with various groups before launching the app, “We worked with numerous partners and child advocacy groups when developing YouTube Kids. While we are always open to feedback on ways to improve the app, we were not contacted directly by the signers of this letter and strongly disagree with their contentions.”

Child using tablet image via Shutterstock

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic