YouTube Kids is billed as a safe place for young impressionable viewers to watch online videos, but two child advocacy groups claim that the advertisements on the mobile app negatively influence kids.
The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood (CCFC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) filed complaints before the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) when they found "hundreds" of videos that promote junk food on the mobile app, saying that the advertisers breached the pledges they made as part of the Children's Food and Beverage Advertising Initiative (CFBAI).
Many of the violators are big brand names who broke their word about not advertising to kids under 12 years old, including Coca-Cola, Hershey, Nestle, Oreo, Kellogg and many others. As a result, Josh Golin of the CCFC criticized Google for allowing this to happen, comparing it with other media platforms targeted at young children.
"The Commission should investigate why Google's algorithms aren't configured to keep junk food marketing off of YouTube Kids, and hold food and beverage companies accountable for violating their pledges not to target their most unhealthy products to children," he says.
YouTube Kids has been under scrutiny since it debuted. It was attacked for not having enough measures to keep children away from adult-themed uploads on YouTube, which is supposedly its main purpose.
According to YouTube's Help page, advertisements for consumable products are "prohibited regardless of nutrition content." However, this apparently only applies to paid ads, not to the commercials made by YouTube creators.
Meanwhile, as a measure to prevent "deceptive" ads from entering YouTube Kids, YouTube's ad policy states that it will "remove videos from the YouTube Kids app" only when the creator notifies the company of a paid ad placement or endorsement via the video-streaming company's tools. However, as everyone can imagine, counting on creators to follow an honor system is far from reliable.
The CCFC and CDD consumer watchdog groups are also looking to hold Google accountable over the whole matter.