E&C Republican Leaders Demand Transparency from Toy Manufacturers Advertising to Children on TikTok, YouTube

Washington, D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Republican Leader Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) and Consumer Protection and Commerce Republican Leader Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) are asking toy manufacturers how they plan to ensure children and their information is protected online following reports that manufacturers are moving their marketing efforts to Big Tech companies like TikTok and YouTube in order to increase their reach and target advertisements to children on those platforms.  

Big Tech has failed to protect privacy, security, and mental health of children on their platforms and on numerous occasions have violated child privacy laws like the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Additionally, TikTok knowingly shares American users’, including children’s, information, with its parent company ByteDance who by law must share it with the Chinese Communist Party.  

Big Tech continues to jeopardize the online privacy of children, and parents deserve transparency for how toy manufacturers—which are advertising to their children—plan to address these issues.  

Excerpts and highlights from the letter: 

“On September 22, Axios reported that toy manufacturers are hastily shifting their marketing dollars from traditional television outlets to social media platforms like TikTok and YouTube. This shift reflects a larger advertising trend moving away from supporting curated content via traditional video distribution to one that is supporting user generated content on social media platforms. 

“As early Black Friday sales are already occurring to provide savings for Americans paying record-high inflation, we understand you must be selective in how you use your marketing dollars. However, as a company that depends on American consumers, your company must be scrupulous in how your marketing practices impact potential users of your products. As a company that markets products for and to children, your company must be responsible for the outlets with which it chooses to do business. It is essential to recognize your content attracts children at an early age to Big Tech platforms, including ones that have alarming ties to China. 

“Unfortunately, the reported marketing practices that the toy industry has utilized deserves special attention due to the privacy and data security practices of its Big Tech partners, such as TikTok and YouTube. These companies have a questionable history regarding the vast amount of user data collected. The data collection record for both companies gets worse for children. For example, TikTok says it requires users to be at least 13 years old to use the platform, but it does not use any age verification tools when new users sign up. 

“For children on TikTok and YouTube, law enforcement agencies have found numerous times that both TikTok and YouTube have violated child privacy laws. In February 2019, TikTok settled with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) regarding charges that the company illegally collected personal information from children violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), which at that time the $5.7 million in fines was the largest civil penalty ever obtained by the Commission in a children’s privacy case. Seven months later, YouTube broke the record with a payment of $136 million to the FTC to settle charges it collected personal information from children without their parents’ consent in violation of COPPA. 

“In one year, the two companies racked up tens of millions in fines for collecting children’s personal 

“information without parental consent. Sadly, we know these fines pale in comparison to the revenues generated by these two companies, which are in the billions of dollars. 

“Due to the number of American children on social media platforms and the track record of negligence by Big Tech companies in protecting our children’s privacy, security, and mental health, we have several questions on how you will deal with companies like TikTok and YouTube during the holiday season and the vast troves of data they collect on children.” 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter to Bandai Namco. 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter to Hasbro. 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter to Mattel. 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter to MGA Entertainment. 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter to The Lego Group. 

CLICK HERE to read the full letter to the Toy Association. 

Energy and Commerce Republicans are leading on strengthening privacy protections for Americans, especially when it comes stronger protections for children under the age of 17. In July, the Committee passed the bipartisan American Data Privacy and Protection Act which puts people back in control of their online data and ensures Big Tech faces real consequences for tracking, predicting, and manipulating children on their platforms for profit.

CLICK HERE to read more about the American Data Privacy and Protection Act.