This past Thursday Britain introduced a set of regulations designed to protect children online. Overnight platforms the likes of TikTok, Instagram, and Youtube have responded by doing just that threatened by the possibility of having to pay multimillion-dollar fines. Rather than applying the new mandatory “age-appropriate design code” specifically to the UK, the aforementioned social media platforms have opted to change internationally to meet this new standard. This meaningful change to the online landscape as brought on by the mid-sized country of Britain potentially signals a positive change for the global internet. This, in the way that it implies that the tech industry is no longer all but exempt from broader regulation. oddly enough this major online regulatory step was met with little attention despite the UK’s stated goal of becoming the “safest place in the world to be online”. The code in question was introduced as an amendment to the data protection act 2018, a technical piece of legislation intended mostly to implement GDPR into UK law. The code in question applies to all online services that are used by children and require that said services at least identify younger users and treat them with care. The code prohibits several predatory practices including. One, “nudge” techniques that encourage children to divulge more of their private information than is necessary. Two, anything considered to be more than the minimization of data harvesting from children. And Three, giving anything less than the maximum amount of security for children’s accounts. Where adamant lobbying opposing these regulations was expected the world’s largest companies have instead made substantial changes and, what’s more, insisted that they wanted to make this manner of change to their platforms all along. Whatever the next step is is controlled by the Information Commissioner’s Office or “ICO” as this party controls when and whether to enforce fines for breaches of this regulation. A major factor that is still up in the air is whether or not children will accept their being treated differently online or if they’ll just use their tech-savvy to skirt around regulation. Regardless of what it is children decide to do it is pivotal that the internet is acknowledged as curating the experience of childhood as we move further into the digital age.
This article interests me for the reason that it pertains to what I perceive to be positive broader internet regulation. This is because such change is rarely if ever properly enforced or implemented at all despite its growing importance. This article also interests me because of the broader implications of the implementation of software that is restrictive to children in an age where children are increasingly tech-savvy. This is to say that I think it’ll be interesting to see how children react to being given the power to restrict their own activity on the internet with the context that it’s “for their own good”.
Hern, Alex. “Social Media Giants Increase Global Child Safety after UK Regulations Introduced.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 5 Sept. 2021, http://www.theguardian.com/media/2021/sep/05/social-media-giants-increase-global-child-safety-after-uk-regulations-introduced.