Major Tech companies sign up to 11 Principles to counter Child Abuse

Some of the large Social Media Platforms (FacebookAppleGoogle and Twitter) have signed up in the launch of the 5 Country Ministerial declaration of 11 Principles to make the internet safer.

These principles make it clear that they will take further steps that will make their users safer, and should be applauded. It steers clear of the current debate about end-to-end encryption (more to come of that later) but is a strong move in the right direction.

Online Harms Reduction Regulator – firm steps emerge – will it affect you?

On the 14th January 2020, Lord McNally placed a bill infront of Parliament that would “assign certain functions of OFCOM in relation to online harms regulation”. This executive summary appears to be a loose description of what’s contained, with the text seemingly requiring OFCOM to write a report each year with recommendations for the introduction of an Online Harms Reduction Regulator.
It is not clear why recommendations are required every year, nor why the lead has now moved fromDCMS to OFCOM (I can only assume that it is because the OFCOM is much closer to the cut-and-thrust of Regulation.

So what might it mean for Platform and Service Providers?

In the short term – probably not a lot, however, there are a couple of key points that providers may want to keepabreast of:
1) We can see that progress is being made – and is more likely to increase than decrease.
2) The Online Harms (as initially laid out in the OHWP) have been narrowed down to focus on certain ones in particular. This means that a Platform Provider is probably well advised to ensure that these are being tackled actively. The Harms laid out in the paper are:
(a) terrorism (or it could be in reference to this definition);
(b) dangers to persons aged under 18 and vulnerable adults;
(c) racial hatred, religious hatred, hatred on the grounds of sex or hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation;
(d) discrimination against a person or persons because of a protected characteristic;
(e) fraud or financial crime;
(f) intellectual property crime;
(g) threats which impede or prejudice the integrity and probity of the electoral process; and
(h) any other harms that OFCOM deem appropriate.

Unfortunately, as you have probably recognised, these descriptions of Online Harms are not well correlated with those laid out in the OHWP – and so OFCOM will probably struggle initially with the lack of tight definition of these Harms, before it can make any meaningful report.

The Bill is in its Second Reading and we will try and provide further update as it progresses.

How to make your website safer for humans – the basics in the UK

We often have conversations with small platform and service providers that are starting to think about making their service a safer place for their users. This applies to almost all types of website and internet based services, but in particular those that provide some social media function, some chat platform or those with User Generated Content (UGC).

One of the first things that is mentioned is the lack of clear guidance available on what the service or platform’s responsibilities are and what steps they should be taking.

A good place to start in the UK is the UK Council for Child Internet Safety and the principles they provide

Take a look at the HTML version here.

Whilst this is targeted towards protecting children online, it is sound advice for any platform or service seeking to protect users online.

We’ll unpack more on this in later posts, but if you’re looking at their advice (for example):

…use tools such as search algorithms to look for slang words typically used by children and young people, and to identify children under 13 who may have lied about their age at registration

The you may also want to take a look at our Online Safety Content Moderation Company list.