US said in late stages of YouTube kids’ video investigation

US government is in the ‘late stages’ of an investigation into how YouTube handles footage containing children on its site after recent scandals rocked the video-sharing platform

  • FTC probe was prompted by complaints company fail to protect kids on service
  • Also investigating claims it improperly collected data of those under-13 illegally  
  • YouTube is said to be considering moving all children’s content to separate app 
  • Comes after FTC fined TikTok $5.7m for improperly collecting children’s data

A U.S.-based government agency is in the late stages of an investigation into how Google’s YouTube handles children’s videos.

The Federal Trade Commission probe was prompted by complaints that the company failed to protect kids who used the service and improperly collected their data. 

Now YouTube faces a possible fine, and executives have accelerated internal talks about possible changes in how the service recommends videos to viewers, reports The Washington Post.  

The FTC are investigating claims the video-sharing platform violated the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act 1998, which requires websites to have parental permission to collect any data about users under 13. 

YouTube is now said to be considering removing all content aimed at children and putting them on the YouTube Kids app, reports the Wall Street Journal. 

A U.S.-based government agency is in the late stages of an investigation into how Google’s YouTube handles children’s videos

They may also disable the autoplay feature on the website after a New York Times investigation found YouTube’s algorithm recommended videos of pre-pubescent children after users watched sexually-themed content. 

Earlier this year, the company found itself ensnared in a child exploitation controversy, wherein pedophiles were discovered to be leaving predatory comments on videos featuring young minors. 

YouTube then turned off comments on all videos that feature minors.

Marc Groman, a lawyer who has worked for the FTC in the past, told The Washington Post: ‘YouTube is a really high-profile target, and for obvious reasons because all of our kids are on it.

‘But the issues on YouTube that we’re all grappling with are elsewhere and everywhere.’

Most recently, the FTC fined TikTok, which has 500million users globally and sees teenagers making 15-second clips that often include them miming along to songs, $5.7million for breaking COPPA.  

The FTC had no comment. Google spokeswoman Andrea Faville said the company had no comment on the Post report. 

She added in a statement that the company considers ‘lots of ideas for improving YouTube’.

ALPHABET AND GOOGLE RECENT SCANDALS

Sexual misconduct 

Schmidt was named in the lawsuit accusing the company of covering up harassment by multiple executives. 

Reports emerged last month that former search executive Amit Singhal was forced to resign after an employee claimed he groped her at an off-campus event.

It was claimed he was paid $35million in a severance package.

Prior to this, an investigation it was uncovered a $150 million payout to Android creator Andy Rubin amid a sexual misconduct inquiry.  

YouTube content controversy  

Companies including Nestle and the makers of Fortnite pulled their adverts from YouTube after a ‘soft-core paedophile ring’ was discovered on the site.

Videos of youngsters, sometimes in compromising positions, were being inundated with comments by paedophiles and attracting tens of millions of views, it was claimed.

Some of the disturbing footage, reportedly featuring girls as young as five, appeared alongside advertising from companies such as Disney and Nestle, according to a US-based vlogger.

Some of the videos appeared alongside advertising from companies such as Disney and Nestle.

 Data 

In July of 2018 it was revealed that data privacy practices of Gmail means that it was common for third-party developers to read the contents of users’ Gmail messages.  

A new investigation in August 2018 found that some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking – even when Location History has been paused. 

It announced in October last  year that there was a software bug in Google+ which meant personal information of ‘hundreds of thousands’ of users was exposed. 

The issue reportedly affected users on the site between 2015 and March 2018.

EU fines   

On March 20, 2019 Google was fined £1.27bn for breaching EU competition laws.

On July 18 2018 EU antitrust regulators handed down a separate $5 billion (£3.8bn / €4.3bn) fine to Google after a three-year long investigation. 

The EU first fined Google $2.84 billion (£2.1bn / €2.42bn) for thwarting rivals of shopping comparison websites. 

The European Commission said Google had an unfair advantage by pre-installing its Chrome browser and Google search app on Android smartphones and notebooks. 

Military collaboration and uses of AI

Google received criticism over its Project Maven, a project with the US military to use its AI to control drones destined for enemy territory.

Google decided not to renew this contract in June 2018 following protests from some employees. 

It established an internal AI ethics board in 2014 when it acquired DeepMind but this has been shrouded in secrecy with no details ever released about who it includes.

Ethics board shambles  

Google disbanded an AI ethics board less than a week after it formed following outrage from staff.  

The liberal workforce objected to the inclusion of Kay Coles James, president of conservative think-tank Heritage Foundation.   

Activists lashed out at Ms Cole, who was selected by the search giant for her role so the council could offer a range of backgrounds and experience, saying she is ‘anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ and anti-immigrant’. 

 

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