On-line baby security regulation heralds finish to ‘tech exceptionalism’, says Baroness Beeban Kidron
British laws to protect children online have spurred social media giants to protect young people around the world, the architect said of the new rules.
Baroness Kidron, a Crossbench peer, tabled a House of Lords amendment to the government’s privacy law, forcing tech giants to identify children through their platforms and treat them differently.
This has resulted in TikTok ending notifications for children after bed, banning targeted advertising for under-18s on Instagram, and banning a new YouTube rule that prevents videos from automatically playing on young people’s devices.
The rules apply internationally, suggesting that children in other countries have benefited from due diligence laws passed in the UK.
The Daily Telegraph’s due diligence campaign has encouraged ministers to introduce a variety of new rules for online content.
Baroness Kidron said, “If a code can change society,” regulating tech companies might be easier than lawmakers think.
“That means they are not exempt,” she said.
“This exceptional technical spirit that has shaped the last decade – ‘We are different’ – simply disappears in a cloud of smoke.”
The rule introduced by Baroness Kidron, which was welcomed by the government, is not part of the flagship Online Harms Bill, which contains a variety of provisions to protect young people from harmful content on the Internet.
The data regulation is designed to force companies to understand the impact of their services on children or to change their platforms so that all users receive child-friendly notifications and advertisements.
The rule went into effect last week and gives the Information Commissioner’s Office the power to take action against companies that do not discriminate content for children.
“They all agree which digital world they want”
Google and Facebook have denied that the recent changes to their algorithms were caused by UK regulations.
However, the platforms will have other changes to make when the Online Harms Bill goes into effect, including preventing online bullying and child access to adult content.
Regulators will also have the power to fine companies for violating the regulations up to 10 percent of their global sales.
Baroness Kidron warned that the children’s online experience is “curate”[es] their childhood experiences ”.
“I work with a lot of children, both here in the UK and internationally. And the thing that absolutely threw me off track is that in over 23 countries and 1,000+ children everyone is agreeing which digital world they want, ”she told the Guardian.
“It is less important that they are in Rwanda or Kenya or Virginia, the US or Berlin or London, because they all use the same services, which are designed in the same way and have the same experience.”
The Online Harms Bill will introduce specific regulations, but later additional regulations could come into effect within the framework it created.
Rachel de Souza, the Commissioner for Children, was asked by Oliver Dowden, Minister of Culture, to find ways to do the age verification online.
The changes could mean apps and websites need to verify users’ ages by checking their passports or fingerprints.
Planned rules in the Online Harms Bill would only give the Ofcom regulator the power to recommend age verification.
In an interview with The Telegraph last month, Ms. de Souza asked, “Wouldn’t it be great if tech companies did this voluntarily and take their responsibilities seriously instead of trying to avoid it?”
Mr Dowden previously reported his plan for the UK to lead the way in online regulation 30 years after a British man, Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.
He said the UK is setting “a standard of security that the rest of the world should follow”.