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Google accused of not playing fair on YouTube Kids service

YouTube Kids was launched a few months ago, allowing parents a new route to offer all of the educational and children friendly content on YouTube.

Even though it has received good reviews from most institutes, there are some problems. In a complaint filed to the Federal Trade Commission by a consumer watchdog group, Google has apparently not set enough rules for advertising on the new service.

The complaint covers several places where Google blurs the lines between content and advertising. The first major issue is product endorsements, YouTube Kids should offer disclosure if the channel is endorsing a certain product or company.

This has to go further than a note in the description, according to the consumer watchdog. In the UK, YouTubers are forced to add product endorsement at the start of the video, making sure viewers know it is sponsored content, but this is not the same in the US.

Videos like unboxings should also be removed from YouTube Kids, due to most of the products unboxed having affiliation with the channel. "Many of the [unboxing] videos on YouTube Kids appear to be user-generated. Some, however, have undisclosed relationships with product manufacturers," said the consumer group in the complaint.

"For example, the Disney-owned Maker Studios has agreements with five popular YouTube channels — DisneyCarToys, HobbyKidsTV, TheEngineeringFamily, ToysReviewToys, and AllToyCollector... All five YouTube channels affiliated with Disney’s Maker Studios are also available on YouTube Kids."

Affiliation and disclosure are not the only things the watchdog group brings up, also claiming the lack of time between content and advert goes against TV rules that require a five second pause or bumper between the TV show and an advert.

Google claims it has worked with various consumer groups on YouTube Kids for over a year, and will continue to make the service a more safe and smart environment for children.

Several consumer groups, including Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Consumers Union, Children Now, and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, have signed the complaint. The FTC will most likely act on the request unless Google starts issuing new rules to channels on YouTube Kids.