YouTube has come under fire as consumer and children advocacy groups claim the video streaming service is inappropriately advertising to youngsters.
The app at the centre of the controversy is YouTube Kids, a piece of mobile software purported to be a safe haven for young video viewers.
The Google-owned service’s app launched back in February, and offers child-friendly video content to help stave off parent’s concerns about dodgy videos on YouTube proper.
Unfortunately for YouTube however, the advocacy groups claim the app blends videos and advertisements in a deceptive way.
The groups, which include the Centre for Digital Democracy, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the Consumers Union, sent a letter to the US Federal Trade Commission today requesting intervention.
They want the FTC to investigate whether the app is violating existing broadcasting rules and engaging in inappropriate advertising practices.
“The videos provided to children on YouTube Kids intermix commercial and other content in ways that are deceptive and unfair to children and would not be permitted to be shown on broadcast or cable television,” the letter states.
The app allegedly features a selection of ‘branded channels’, including McDonald’s and Fisher-Price.
The channels reportedly combine programmes that contain a children’s character with ads that contain the same character.
This practice is currently barred on US broadcast television by regulators, although it’s not clear whether YouTube falls within the same jurisdiction.
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The letter also claims that YouTube isn’t making it clear when ‘user-generated videos’ are actually paid endorsements courtesy of toy companies.
Speaking to Reuters, a YouTube spokeswoman said: “We worked with numerous partners and child advocacy groups when developing YouTube Kids.”
“While we are always open to feedback on ways to improve the app, we were not contacted directly by the signers of this letter and strongly disagree with their contentions.”
Dodgy advertising on YouTube is increasingly becoming a topic of contention, as concern grows over the lack of regulation on the platform.
Late last month, it emerged advertisements for gambling and junk food were being played before videos from popular UK-based vlogger Zoella.
While regulator Ofcom handles broadcast media, it’s still not clear how YouTube should be kept safe from devious marketing tactics.