Newspaper article International New York Times

YouTube Kids App Faces New Food Ad Complaints

Newspaper article International New York Times

YouTube Kids App Faces New Food Ad Complaints

Article excerpt

In complaints filed with federal officials, two prominent consumer advocacy groups argued that the ads were deceptive, particularly for children.

Visit YouTube Kids and typically it will not be long before promotions for junk food appear. The advertisements regularly show up in the form of funny contests and animated stories.

In complaints filed to federal officials on Tuesday, two prominent consumer advocacy groups argued that those ads were deceptive, particularly for children. The two complaints, made to the Federal Trade Commission, expand on the groups' filings to the agency in April and could increase pressure on federal officials to intervene in the fast-growing online video market.

The groups, the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood and the Center for Digital Democracy, argue in the complaints that online video aimed at children is too commercialized and is not held to the same standards that apply to cable and broadcast television. The complaints call for an investigation of food marketers, video programmers and Google, which owns YouTube, as well as for a broad examination of advertising of such food to children online.

"You have digital natives consuming content simultaneously with the growth of powerful marketing at children at the earliest ages," said Jeffrey Chester, executive director of the Center for Digital Democracy. "The agencies are lagging and the companies are emboldened."

Google introduced YouTube Kids in February as a mobile app "built from the ground up with little ones in mind," according to a blog post by the company. The app is geared for children of preschool age and older. After downloading the app on a mobile device, parents are guided through a tour of how to set safety features, like the option to block searching. The videos on the platform are selected from the main YouTube site through algorithms set to pick child-related content.

The groups expand on their April complaints by asking the F.T.C. to examine the advertising practices of food companies, and by citing new evidence of junk food ads on the app. In the new complaint, the groups argue that more than a dozen food companies have fallen short of their own promises to abstain from marketing junk food to children on YouTube Kids. The groups say that brands like Burger King, Coca-Cola, ConAgra Foods and American Licorice have commercials on the app for products including potato chips and chocolate bars.

While the groups direct blame toward marketers, they also criticize YouTube for not enforcing its own policies. YouTube restricts paid advertising of food and beverages on its children's app, but the groups said their review of the app found many examples in which food companies used their own branded channels to show promotional videos. The groups asked for an investigation into uploaded TV commercials from unknown YouTube Kids accounts to determine whether there were connections between the food companies and those channels. …

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