by Jeff Sovern
Recently I was at the home of a family with a two-year old. Because the two-year old likes Barney, the family played videos of Barney songs on YouTube. Next to the videos appeared a series of ads. Among these ads were pictures of singles in revealing clothing. Occasionally, an ad cycled in of a barely-dressed woman. Those clicking on the woman were treated to pictures of various other women, at least one of whom was unclothed. Barney's take: "Every one is special."
Of course, the two-year old can't read and the ads have no meaning for children that age. But they might have meaning for children only slightly older, and they probably watch YouTube videos too. Beneath the ads appears a legend indicating that YouTube is not responsible for them. But someone is, and it is hard to believe that whoever runs the ads is unaware of the possibility that they will be displayed next to children's programming, nor that YouTube has no power to enter into contracts to prevent such advertising during children's programming.
Society provides a variety of special protections for children. Some of these are enacted into law, like the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act. Others have come through self-regulation. As a result, for all the problems with the ads shown during children's television shows, you will not see nudes during those ads. I am not up on the laws governing internet ads accompanying programming to children, though I know that the Supreme Court has invalidated some such laws on first amendment grounds. But regardless of the legal background, you would think YouTube--which is owned by Google of "Don't be evil" fame, would take steps to prevent such advertising from being shown during videos of interest principally to children.