COPPAcalypse? The Youtube Settlement's Impact on Kids Content

62 Pages Posted: 1 May 2023 Last revised: 21 Mar 2024

See all articles by Garrett Johnson

Garrett Johnson

Questrom School of Business

Tesary Lin

Boston University

James C. Cooper

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School

Liang Zhong

Boston University

Date Written: March 14, 2024

Abstract

We examine the tradeoff between privacy and personalization for online content by evaluating the impact of YouTube's settlement with the Federal Trade Commission over violating the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Under the settlement, YouTube removed all forms of personalization for child-directed content starting in January 2020, which included personalized ads and platform features like personalized search and recommendations. We study the resulting impact on 5,066 top American YouTube channels by comparing the child-directed content creators to their non-child-directed counterparts using a difference-in-differences design. On the supply side, we find that child-directed content creators produce 18% less content and pivot towards producing non-child-directed content. Child-directed content creators also invest less in content quality: the proportion of original content falls by 11% and manual captioning falls by 27%, while user content ratings fall by 10%. On the demand side, views of child-directed channels fall by 20%. Consistent with the platform's degraded capacity to match viewers to content, both content creation and content views become more concentrated among top child-directed YouTube channels.

Keywords: privacy, digital content, COPPA, YouTube

JEL Classification: D04, K20, L51, L82, M30, M38

Suggested Citation

Johnson, Garrett and Lin, Tesary and Cooper, James C. and Zhong, Liang, COPPAcalypse? The Youtube Settlement's Impact on Kids Content (March 14, 2024). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4430334 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4430334

Garrett Johnson (Contact Author)

Questrom School of Business ( email )

595 Commonwealth Avenue
Boston, MA 02215
United States
6173534677 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://www.bu.edu/questrom/faculty-research/faculty-directory/garrett-johnson/

Tesary Lin

Boston University ( email )

595 Commonwealth Ave
Room 611
Boston, MA 02215
United States

James C. Cooper

George Mason University - Antonin Scalia Law School ( email )

3301 Fairfax Drive
Arlington, VA 22201
United States
703-993-9582 (Phone)

Liang Zhong

Boston University ( email )

270 Bay State Road
Boston, MA
United States
6173692010 (Phone)
02134 (Fax)

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