Youtube Kids faces further complaints about inappropriate ads

Advertisers promised not to target under-12s with ads for sugary snacks and drinks

Ads marketing sugar-laden snacks and drinks have prompted a further round of complaints about Google's YouTube Kids app.

The Center for Digital Democracy and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood filed complaints with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission on Tuesday, accusing Google of unfair and deceptive practices toward children.

Google's YouTube Kids app is supposed to offer kids aged under six a safe space to spend time online, but the two groups said it is rife with ads for snacks and drinks that manufacturers have promised not to market to children.

"Far from being a safe place for kids to explore, YouTube Kids is awash with food and beverage marketing that you won’t find on other media platforms for young children," said CCFC Executive Director Josh Golin.

Coca-Cola Co. placed 47 TV ads and 11 longer promotional videos for Coke and Coke Zero on the app, even though the company promised not to market any beverages to under-12s, the groups said. They also identified 31 TV ads and 21 product placements for Oreos, which manufacturer Mondelez International had also promised not to market to children.

The complaints are not the first the groups have made about YouTube Kids.

They first reported it to the FTC in April, just six weeks after its launch. 

In May they highlighted further problems, including apps containing profanity, jokes about pedophilia, and ads for alcohol.

One of the groups' two filings on Tuesday extends the April complaint.

Google has reneged on its promise at the launch of YouTube Kids that all ads in the app would comply with its policies prohibiting ads for certain products, including food and beverages, said the groups' legal counsel, Angela Campbell of Georgetown University’s Institute for Public Representation.

Instead of enforcing that policy, she said, Google changed it so it wouldn't apply to the TV commercials or longer promotional videos the groups are now complaining about.

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Peter Sayer

Peter Sayer

IDG News Service
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