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Lawmakers call YouTube Kids “junk content desert”

A House subcommittee is investigating YouTube Kids, saying Google’s video service is feeding children inappropriate material in the “wilderness of consumer content” so it can run ads.

The lawsuit comes after Google agreed to pay $ 170 million in 2019 to accuse YouTube of collecting personal data about children without their parents’ consent.

In a letter to YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki on Tuesday, the US House of Commons Oversight and Economic Policy subcommittee said YouTube was not doing enough to protect children from harmful material. Instead, it relies on the artificial intelligence: creators to decide which videos bring it to the platform, according to the letter.

And despite the changes in the 2019 settlement, the letter states that YouTube Kids is still showing ads to children. Instead of basing it on children’s online activities, it now targets it based on the videos they watch.

YouTube did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Congressional inquiry comes a year after an epidemic that closed schools and forced parents who work from home to become increasingly dependent on services such as YouTube for their children. This has led to a revision of the “screen time” rules for “guilt for children in front of screens”, with some experts advising parents to focus on quality rather than quantity.

Lawmakers say YouTube Kids is nothing but quality.

“YouTube Kids does not spend time և trying to determine the appropriateness of the content before it becomes available for children to watch,” the letter said. YouTube Kids allows content creators to self-regulate. “YouTube only asks that they take into account factors, including the theme of the video, whether the video focuses on children’s characters, themes, toys or games, etc.”

Children under the age of 13 are protected by federal law 1998, which requires parental consent before companies can collect and share their personal information.

Under the 2019 regulation, Google agreed to work with video creators to tag child content. It says it will limit data collection when users watch such videos, regardless of their age.

But lawmakers say that even after the settlement, YouTube Kids, launched in 2015, continues to use the gaps to advertise to children. Whether or not it targets viewer-centric ads, as the main YouTube service does, it tracks information about what kids are watching to suggest videos. It also collects personally identifiable information.

There are other, meaner ways to reach children. The letter states that the “large volume” of children’s videos is smuggled marketing and advertising with the placement of products by “children under the influence of children”.

“It seems that YouTube is not trying to prevent such problematic marketing,” the letter reads. House’s research team found that only 4% of the videos it watched had “high educational value” by offering relevant development material.

The Kids app helped YouTube become a more engaging sales pitch that greatly generated profits for Google և its corporate parent, Alphabet, based in Mountain View, California.

Last year, YouTube generated nearly $ 20 billion in advertising revenue, more than double its total just three years ago. The video site now accounts for about 13% of Google’s total ad sales, up slightly from 8% in 2017.

The House Subcommittee advises YouTube to turn off ads completely for children under 7:. It also asks parents to turn off the “auto play” feature, which is currently not possible (although parents can set a timer to restrict their children from watching videos).

Legislators ask YouTube to provide information about the best YouTube Kids videos, channels, revenue streams, as well as user-spent time, number of videos viewed, among other information.

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AP technology writer Michael Liedke contributed to this story.

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