The world's highest-earning YouTube star is in hot water, or at least his family is—because the star himself is just seven years old. The Ryan ToysReview channel, which earned its young star an estimated $22 million last year, has been accused by consumer watchdog Truth in Advertising of deceitfully advertising to its young viewers, BuzzFeed News. The group, which has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, says the family does not properly disclose its ad deals, interspersing sponsored content with regular content on its channel without making clear which content is actually an ad. It adds that sometimes disclosures flash briefly on screen in text young viewers don't yet know how to read, NBC News reports. Ryan's family issued a statement to BuzzFeed denying any wrongdoing and saying it supports any efforts by regulators "to protect both viewers and creators."
The group offers two videos as examples: One in which Ryan is shown playing in a pretend drive-thru with no sponsored content, and a similar one in which he plays in a pretend drive-thru while hawking his toy partnership with a fast-food chain. "Unfortunately, it is often difficult to discern the innocent (or sometimes not so innocent) antics in Ryan ToysReview videos from the sponsored content," the group says. And while adults may be able to tell the difference, preschoolers can't. The channel "deceptively promotes a multitude of products to millions of preschool-aged children in violation of FTC law," the group says. The law in question says ads "must be clearly and conspicuously disclosed in a manner that will be easily understood by the intended audience." The FTC says it has received the complaint but did not say whether an investigation has been opened. (Google is making big changes to "kid" YouTube videos.)