A coalition of consumer groups led by the Center for Digital Democracy,
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and Center
for Science in the Public Interest have filed a complaint with the
Federal Trade Commission (FTC), alleging that Google’s YouTube
Kids application mixes “advertising and programming in ways that
deceive young children, who, unlike adults, lack the cognitive ability
to distinguish between the two.” According to the April 7, 2015, press
release, the groups also claim that the app promotes several “branded
channels” for fast-food and toy companies, as well as “user-generated
segments” “that feature toys, candy and other products without
disclosing the business relationships that many of the producers of these
videos have with the manufacturers of the products, a likely violation of
the FTC’s Endorsement Guidelines.”

Filed on behalf of these consumer groups by Georgetown Law’s Institute
for Public Representation, the complaint asks FTC to investigate whether
the YouTube Kids app violates Section 5 of the FTC Act. It also requests
more information about how Google selects the “recommended” videos
associated with delivered content. “It is unclear how the app determines
which videos to recommend,” opines the complaint. “Is Google tracking
children’s online viewing habits to make the recommendations? If so,
has it given direct notice and obtained verifiable parental consent before
tracking them as required by the COPPA [Children’s Online Privacy
Protection] Rule?”

In particular, the complaint singles out McDonald’s Corp. for purportedly
presenting promotional videos “styled as news reports on topics such
as What are McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets Made of?,” without
identifying the content as advertising. As the coalition elaborates, “The
McDonald’s channel also features television commercials, such as the
one for Smurfy Happy Meals. Branded channels, such as the McDonald’s
channel, take advantage of children because they do not understand that
the entire channel is actually advertising.”

“There is nothing ‘child friendly’ about an app that obliterates longstanding
principles designed to protect kids from commercialism,”
said CCFC Associate Director Josh Golin. “YouTube Kids exploits
children’s developmental vulnerabilities by delivering a steady stream of advertising that masquerades as programming. Furthermore, YouTube
Kids’ advertising policy is incredibly deceptive. To cite just one example,
Google claims it doesn’t accept food and beverage ads but McDonald’s
actually has its own channel and the ‘content’ includes actual Happy
Meal commercials.”


Issue 561

About The Author

For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.