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YouTube under federal investigation over allegations it violates kids' privacy (washingtonpost.com)
148 points by jmsflknr 31 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 35 comments



The author keeps conflating the "hate speech" talking points with what this investigation is actually about, it's like they can't help but pad the article with all their google grievances.

It sounds like this is due to COPPA complaints because a lot of kids watch youtube videos and apparently they are not supposed to, but if youtube was found culpable then everyone would because COPPA is a mess.


I don't see how this is youtube's fault at all.

It's not their problem that kids are violating TOS. Maybe parents shouldn't let youtube babysit their children.


I am experiencing quite a bit of the opposite from "let youtube babysit their children" in many different parents that treat video like some sort of poison which is a curiosity to me (I am not a parent).

I have been thinking more about dopamine or motivation and satisfaction in myself. I get it, satisfying that craving with any one thing too much is bad. Having satisfaction for that craving always on demand is bad. That satisfaction comes in many forms some which people say are "bad for you" some "good for you" some people disagree (in any category: exercising, eating, socializing, mind altering substances, television, youtube, social media, work, video games, reading, etc.)

Not very many people get a high from boredom, so a good measure of it probably fits in a good life, but that has its limits too.

Whenever I hear too many people have the same opinion about something "bad for you" that can't be explained without hand-waving I get very suspicious.


YouTube harms children in just the same way as it harms adults. The difference is that children are more susceptible. What is considered a normal religious or political argument between adults can be considered brain washing if directed at children.

They do not possess the mental capacities or world experience to be able to handle arbitrary videos. And the fact that it's arbitrary is exactly the issue. My young siblings watch YouTube, and I will say the best children's content on YouTube is better than the best children's content that was available on TV in my team. There are amazing channels out there with ethical, educational, entertaining, wholesome content I wish I had access to when I was their age.

Children's cultural consumption must be curated by the parents or a trusted party. YouTube will take kids down arbitrary rabbit holes that can take them to violent, political, radical, targeted, or even genuinely disturbing videos. Adults can contextualize what they see, or disengage, and even then we see the negative effects. Subjecting children to that is not just bad parenting, it's bad in the sense that dystopia is bad in science fiction. It is poison.


It's not recommended for parents to let youtube to babysit their children. But most parents in the States let their kids watch animations or kid videos on Youtude Kids, so they can prepare a quick meal, take a shower, or just eat dinner quietly...If you have a kid and work full-time, then you will understand why a lot parents still do it even they know that it's not good. The downside of Youtube - Youtube will automatically push similar contents even on Youtude Kids. For example, a kid watched a "Baby Shark" video, then Youtube will push a lot videos tagged with similar contents, including weird parodies with inappropriate content for kids.


I'll guess you are not a parent.


Unenforceable laws are always a mess.


Unenforceable or unobeyable?


The hypocrisy in these articles criticising social media for tracking people when the news sites are stuffed to the gills with trackers is starting to get annoying.


I'm not sure that's an entirely fair comparison to make for a couple reasons: A) nobody pays to read the news anymore, and B) Facebook controls its ad network.

If WaPo or any other news publication decided to turn off ads out of moral obligation to prove a point, they'd be digging their own graves. You're essentially arguing that they should commit economic suicide if they truly care about ad tracking. Our culture isn't willing to spend as much on news content as we do Netflix, and that's just a sad reality.

Facebook, Youtube, etc. OTOH have built very profitable advertising systems that form the foundation of their entire business. They fully control these ad networks and all their data. And in this case, it sounds like YouTube may have violated COPPA, which is a totally different level of moral failure than choosing to put up ads.


If WaPo or any other news publication decided to turn off ads out of moral obligation to prove a point, they'd be digging their own graves

Why, at this rate, Jeff Bezos might have to shut the Post down in... 6.3 million years.


>nobody pays to read the news anymore

I pay for several, quite a few people do.


Umm you do realize Youtube is free to the end user? That makes the two exactly comparable in business model.


Again, YouTube controls its own ad network. It has full control over what advertising JS is being served to users. It’s also a technology-first company, where advanced web application development is a core competency.

News publications aren’t like this at all. They’re embedding Adsense or some other third party ad widgets, probably at the direction of management. They’re serving whatever that black box ad API returns, which could be a lot of things. I haven’t really looked that hard, but are you aware of an ad network that pays comparably to Google that pledges not to track people? It’s kinda hard to imagine that such a thing exists, given the ad industry’s pervasive encroachment on privacy.

Also, most publications I’ve interacted with don’t have technical stakeholders at the executive level, and web developers are a back-of-the-house role. They’re not nearly as technically capable as a YouTube


A lot of people pay for the Wall Street Journal. If the news sites would stop giving it away for free maybe people would be forced to start paying. You may think this would just drive people to fake news sources but people actually want something accurate. Fake news only works if it mixes with trustworthy content.


I think Wall Street Journal/FT are different though, people pay for those because it's a valuable curation of financial/economic news and presents political news through a financial/economics lens and not entirely through the traditional left/right political spectrum lens.

Call me cynical, but what makes you think people subscribing to more politically-oriented publications are doing it because they want truly something accurate and not because that publication confirms their biases?


Probably because there’s low cost alternatives if all you care about is confirming your biases.


The journalists aren't the ones making that decision though, so I don't think that speaks to the quality of the article itself.


I’m not sure which is worse, that journalists are unaware of what their own papers are doing, or that they’re keeping quiet about it.


You make it sound like some conspiracy that journalists rely on advertising tech while publishing negative stories about it. Journalists aren't the ones building the CMS features for their publishers. I used to be a developer at a newspaper in 2016, and most of my coworkers on the journalism side didn't understand the business side of the paper, it wasn't their job.

But I'll emphasize my previous point again: newspapers would die without online advertising revenue. Even with online ads, publications around the country are being sold at record low prices and shut down or kneecapped by private equity groups. I highly encourage you to read up on the financial landscape of news in 2019, it's terribly grim.

Massive contraction is occurring the industry, prompting major consolidation of media groups. Companies like Digital First Media acquire large collections of papers and immediately fire half of the newsroom, and this is happening nationwide.[0]

I get that it's so easy to point fingers at news orgs for using online ads, but they didn't really have a choice. When companies like Google and Facebook took control of the distribution and access of content, newspapers became their customers in order to stay alive.

0: https://www.inquirer.com/business/reading-eagle-newspaper-di...


Journalists publishing stories around ad tracking should be aware of that they are doing the same thing.

The user would be better off privacy-wise by not reading the article.

They could still have ads but why add tracking?


In fact, maybe all journalists everywhere should just focus on investigating the organizations they write/work for, and stop talking about anything else until those places are paragons above criticism, right?

Maybe next up: only debt-free people/orgs are allowed to talk about deficits?

(Sure, journalism, like most other professions, can use introspection, including the topic of how tracking works, but if there's any case that something needs to be said every time the topic of tracking comes up -- and it's not clear that it is -- that should largely be an editorial call.)


The “just following orders” argument? Journalists know good and well what their websites are doing if they themselves are supposedly experts on reporting on this sort of thing. They expect employees at Google et al to go against their masters yet they are hypocrites because they don’t go against theirs.


No, that's something completely different.

These writers aren't actively implementing the advertising software. They're not "following orders" in anything with respect to ad tracking simply by being a contributor on the platform. At worst, they're complicit by working for the company that utilizes it. Frankly though we all complicit in this stuff one way or another even if there's the illusion that we aren't by some degree of separation.

(EDIT: Deleted irrelevant argument)


Commonality is both are driven by the highly sociopathic and craven advertising/sales industry. You can order corporations by their dependence on ad and dark marketing revenue.


I'm not a native speaker, but this sounds strange:

> "YouTube has a huge problem,” said Dylan Collins, chief executive of SuperAwesome. “They clearly have huge amounts of children using the platform, but they can’t acknowledge their presence.”

Children is a countable noun. I think saying "huge number of children" is better. For contrast money is a mass noun. "generating huge amount of money" would be appropriate use for that term.

Maybe I'm wrong though.


I'd agree with you, though in modern english the countable/uncountable distinction is getting blurred (see less/fewer for example). Just part of the evolution of language I guess.


> SuperAwesome, the company that commissioned the PWC report, helps technology companies provide services without violating COPPA or European child-privacy legal restrictions against the tracking of children. “YouTube has a huge problem,” said Dylan Collins, chief executive of SuperAwesome. “They clearly have huge amounts of children using the platform, but they can’t acknowledge their presence.”

I'm trying to make my mind up about SuperAwesome's ethical position here. On the one hand, they're investing their own resources into the groundwork for an investigation that could lead to better protections for children; on the other hand, they could benefit massively from a situation where YouTube is forced to use a product like theirs universally, rather than the current situation where they sell their product to individual channels/brands. On the other other hand, SuperAwesome benefiting from this situation makes them more able to protect children on platforms other than YouTube; on the other other other hand, there's something weird about this not-quite-extortion.

Will we see consulting firms in the future offering "we will find your competitors' obscure GDPR violations and help you form nonprofits to report them to authorities and lobby for the prioritization of those cases"? Is this the world we want to live in? In a world where corporations have the power to shut down competitors with regulatory madness, is this the optimal balance of innovation and regulation to maximally increase [insert utility function here]?


Couldn't the same question about Google's ethical position and their reasons behind developing the Chrome browser? And, as a follow on, couldn't you also ask the same question about YouTube's ethical position in its participation in killing IE6 [0]?

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=19798678

Update: To finish the thought, neither Google nor SuperAwesome are neutral when it comes to pursuing objectives that also help others besides themselves.


Yes.

...go on?


> "Will we see consulting firms in the future offering "we will find your competitors' obscure GDPR violations and help you form nonprofits to report them to authorities and lobby for the prioritization of those cases"? Is this the world we want to live in? "

You mean industry policing itself? Sign me up. I'm skeptical it could work as well as you describe though.


I bet there will be fines involved.


Youtube is just following its own policy: "[we] specifically prohibit videos alleging that a group is superior in order to justify discrimination, segregation or exclusion based on qualities like age"

So because they cannot justify exclusion of people based on age, they violate everyone's privacy equally.


I've been looking into this problem too, and you can find more information here: https://twitter.com/MarcusMcFart/status/1137562323512487938


What you posted is quite alarming, but I'm not sure it's related. This is about privacy, not pedophiles.




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