YouTube is reportedly in talks to stop targeting ads around videos kids are likely to watch, a decision it hopes will assuage the US Federal Trade Commission.
The move would bring about an immediate dip in ad sales for the streaming service, which is already facing a multi-million dollar fine for potential previous breaches of the Children's Online Privacy Act (COPA). However, halting the practice altogether could help draw a line under the controversy for the business.
US rules forbid companies from advertising directly to children below the age of 13, but the demographic of YouTube’s audience is such that many young children have been inadvertently exposed to behavioural ads capable of gathering information on the viewer.
Previously, YouTube has insisted that its flagship app isn't designed for children, pointing the YouTube Kids app where targeted advertising has been removed, as evidence it provides a separate kid-friendly service. However, its critics have highlighted the presence of many videos clearly aimed at kids on the main app —including nursery rhymes and cartoons, many of which have racked up billions of views.
Neither YouTube nor the FTC has commented on claims of a targeting freeze, which first appeared in Bloomberg. However, if restrictions on targeting around videos kids could watch do come to pass it could help Google see off more punitive measures championed by consumer groups; such as forcing all children’s videos onto the Kids app or even banning all associated ads entirely.
YouTube's child safety policies caused concern for brands last year after it was found that paedophiles were leaving “predatory” comments on videos featuring children. The video-sharing platform took action by banning comments on videos of minors.
In 2017, it was forced to remove ads from appearing adjacent to inappropriate videos of "scantily clad" or "naked" children.