A number of the toy reviewers I follow have been dealing with yet another batch of shenanigans from YouTube. This time it involves the Child Online Privacy Protection Act, a law meant to keep data mining from happening to kids using the internet. YouTube was recently fined a bunch of money for violating this act in how it approaches videos for kids and Google, who owns YouTube, has opted to pass the pain on to its creators again like they have before unless it will affect YouTube itself.
Oddly it isn’t animation reviewers I’ve seen discuss this but toy reviewers like Retroblasting, Pixel Dan, and friend of BW TJOmega. Apparently they have to mark their stuff either “for kids” or “not for kids”, and YouTube’s algorithm may still declare them liars because YouTube’s use of AI to wash their hands of a problem is notorious for both happening often and hurting their creators, including the internet celebrities they created, some of which predated Google’s ownership of YouTube and their Partner Program where you could make money from ad revenue, which Google now denies as much of as it can. I speak as a victim of that. Every time I’ve tried to upload an Art Soundoff this month I get a message to go to YouTube’s new Studio page and mark all my videos past and present. YouTube Studio does not run on Vista computers so I need to find an alternative to fix that.
Speaking of Art Soundoff I mentioned in one just last week that older folks still look down on anything animated (comics, cartoons, video games) as immediately being for kids, and that this also includes toys despite many toy reviewers I follow only discussing nostalgic toys or adult collectibles, only occasionally looking at stuff for today’s kids like the Imaginext line. Then I saw the below video by The Mysterious Mr. Enter, an animation reviewer who will also have to jump through this new hoop to continue his show. He goes over some of the problems with YouTube’s new policy and how they’re hurting their own revenue creators (the YouTube video producers) just to cover their own butts–again–when the COPPA violations are their fault.
Catch Mr. Enter’s animation reviews and his documentary miniseries Technocracy on his YouTube channel.
The problem for creators is that the new rules will cause them to not be suggested if their shows are deemed either by the creator or YouTube to be for kids. Unless you already follow their channel and check your subscription feed and not just letting notifications tell you when a new video is up you won’t know it exists, which means less revenue, although kids shows won’t be monetizable anymore…except by YouTube itself of course. This is what has many reviewers who cover topics kids enjoy, even if they’re actually shows targeting adults because as discussed adults are into animation, toys, comics, and video games as well, worried they’re going to lose audience or income. Some of these shows are family friendly or safe for work because that’s what the creator wanted to do. That’s my reason and I have covered a few kids cartoons in BW Video Reviews, but the reviews are aimed towards grown-ups who write off cartoons as weak stories because they’re for kids. I’ve also covered non-kids shows as well. In fact the only thing I have that’s really aimed at kids is my Captain Yuletide comic and that’s not up on YouTube. You have to download the PDF files from this site.
Enter mentions Ryan’s Toy Reviews, which led to having two shows on Nickelodeon, which also stars his parents and (I’m pretty sure this is irony) his own line of toys. So at least now he does get to be protected by Coogan’s Law. I think he has a sister but I haven’t watched his reviews or the Nick shows so I don’t know if she takes part or not. I just remember seeing a news story on it that talks about how he does the reviews and his parents handle the visual effects and marketing for the channel. YouTube can make success stories beyond it’s own platform. My guess is this is more an exception to the rule because the parents run the site for him. Even under child labor laws he only has to be on camera for a certain amount of time to be inline with the law and anything else is covered under existing laws, like child abuse. Only the revenue from his reviews and the Nick shows are a source of concern but Coogan’s does ensure the latter. I don’t necessarily have a problem with kids in these videos provided the kid wants to be in the video and is having fun. There are kids with their own shows doing just that and treated well by their parents.
There are also channels legitimately providing entertainment for kids. Whether it’s official channels for Disney with original content or sample episodes of their various network shows, older cartoons by the actual copyright holders seeking both a new audience and old nostalgia, or original made for internet web shows for kids (whether or not they’re any good is up to you…I stumbled across one called Morphle that was rather bland but harmless), folks are trying to offer shows to kids who wouldn’t otherwise see them. Nobody complains when other streaming services offer kids shows, all professionally made and many also old shows. The problem is what YouTube does when a kid logs into these shows and that’s what they need to be called out on. Instead they put the blame on the creators just for making shows.
The whole “family friendly” vibe wasn’t even YouTube’s fault though, but the advertisers. Many were uncomfortable advertising their products on web shows with swearing or violence, and YouTube itself banned nudity long before this, possibly to keep porn off of the platform. Since they didn’t want to lose ad revenue, despite those same advertisers willing to sponsor stuff on Comedy Central, BBC America, FX, and other TV channels with shows that have at least mild swearing (because somehow using the “S” word is no longer banned on cable television and everyone wants to be edgy like HBO) and adult themes, YouTube pushed new guidelines for content to make videos family friendly, in other words safe for kids because nobody tries to make actual family content outside of Disney/Pixar anymore. (As in shows that mom and dad are willing to watch with the kids and the kids don’t mind they’re being there.) How did it keep track of that? Algorithms. The same kinds of algorithms that hurt reviewers of content because Hollywood got upset that their shows and movies were being posted illegally and YouTube still doesn’t really care. If you can bypass the algorithms, the violations continues while reviewers and video essayers looking to make their content as visually appealing as possible for the sake of their audience take a punch to the face. Algorithms are YouTube’s way of being lazy and making good creators who follow the rules suffer for the acts of the cheats so they can keep on making money and cheating others. This is why YouTube under Google has been getting a lot of criticism.
It’s not fair that YouTube has their creators, especially their smaller creators who don’t get the big website write-ups or TV appearances, have to suffer so they don’t have to change their practices. It’s probably for the benefit of the advertising dollars since they not only get more revenue but can create more targeted ads. A better solution would be to adopt the MPAA or current TV rating system. Have the creators mark their age rating, and allow parents to restrict access above a certain rating or for unrated content, like some modern TVs, cable, satellite, and streaming services offer. This would make for a better system that would make it easier for advertisers to choose the type of content they support, allow creators to make the content they want, and would solve a lot of the problems that aren’t being caused by YouTube’s actual violations. A company that knew what they were doing would implement such a system. YouTube under Google however shows that more and more often they don’t know what they’re doing and they’re the independent content mecha. That’s not a good thing. So go support the channels I linked to in this article (especially TJ’s since he’s a friend) because under YouTube’s new rules they may be harder to find even if they stick with YouTube. The problem isn’t the government though but YouTube’s policies and their use of bad algorithm systems that fail everyone. Except YouTube of course.