Social media platforms don’t have any excuses over dangerous content material – security campaigner
Social media platforms need to stop making excuses and take more steps to combat harmful content on their services, said online security activist Ian Russell.
Mr Russell, whose daughter Molly took her own life in 2017 after seeing harmful content on social media, said Facebook and Instagram were responsible for tackling online harm rather than waiting for government regulation.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast as part of a new online safety campaign he supports, Mr Russell criticized platforms like Facebook and Instagram for arguing that while they have added security staff over the past few years, more government needs regulation, so that you don’t have to make content-related decisions alone.
Everyone from governments to businesses to individuals should take responsibility for staying safe online
“Why can’t companies and corporations make such decisions that can threaten human life themselves? Of course the government should help them – people should band together – but I think that’s not a reasonable excuse, ”he said.
“Everyone from governments to corporations to individuals should take responsibility for being safe online and thinking about the world of the future and making sure that these online platforms – that can do good – keep doing it and they don’t due to the bad and harmful content that is contained on it. “
He said he believes some progress has been made on child safety online, but added that it has been happening “at a snail’s pace”.
Mr Russell spoke alongside the 5Rights Foundation’s campaign group as they launched a collection of bogus toys that mimicked online abuse and data collection activities of some digital services to highlight that certain online behaviors would never be tolerated in the real world .
The Twisted Toys collection includes a Share Bear, which collects and shares a child’s data, and a Pocket Troll, which questions every moment of a child’s day and bombard them with unfriendly comments.
The mock range also includes a picture book of terms and conditions that would last hundreds of hours and a “stalkie talkie” that allows strangers to interact with children.
I don’t accept what the platforms say they should be safe by default
In response to the growing threat, the government released its proposed Online Safety Act earlier this year, which would introduce a new due diligence requirement for online platforms and place them under Ofcom’s purview in its new role as online regulator.
Speaking to Mr Russell, 5Rights chairwoman Baroness Beeban Kidron said she was “very optimistic” about the government’s upcoming online security bill, but said it was taking too long to get into place.
“We’ve waited four years for this and it will take two or three years to come into effect, and seven years is a very long time in a child’s life,” she told BBC Breakfast.
She also criticized social media platforms for responding to malicious content, saying that better precautionary measures needed to be built into their services.
“I don’t accept what the platforms say, they should be completely safe, no other industry can get away with actually offering consumer-oriented goods, especially to children who don’t have health and safety and consumer protection, of course,” she said.
“We don’t accept it anywhere else and we are not allowed to accept it online.”
Too often, people forget that digital products and services are consumer goods – and as such must be safe for those who use them – especially children
Research by 5Rights, published along with the Twisted Toys campaign, found that 80% of parents don’t trust technology companies to keep children safe online, and 71% think the government is doing more to keep them safe online should.
Around 90% of the parents surveyed stated that the Internet can be harmful to children.
“Too often people forget that digital products and services are consumer goods – and therefore need to be safe for those who use them – especially children,” said Baroness Kidron of the campaign.
“We don’t give personal information about children to random strangers, we don’t allow strangers to knock on the door and ask for a naked Polaroid, we don’t allow people to assess their emotional state in order to sell them something. But all of this takes place online on a daily basis.
“Simply put, we don’t accept that in the real world, and we can’t allow it in the digital world.
“Twisted Toys shows how dangerous and inadequate data monitoring is, that business conditions are not effective and the tech industry does not even meet the most basic security requirements. Parents want change. “