UK Seeks To Protect Children On Social Media By Banning Likes

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Mary Margaret Olohan Social Issues Reporter
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The United Kingdom is taking steps to protect children’s privacy on social media by banning “nudge tactics” that encourage users to spend more time online.

The Information Commissioner’s Office provided the document “Age appropriate design: a code of practice for online services” which explains that the U.K. wants to protect children on the internet rather than ban children from using the internet. They plan to do this by prohibiting children from liking posts on Facebook or Instagram, and by disabling techniques that “nudge” users to stay online longer like Snapchat “streaks.” (RELATED: Tucker: Congress Should Ban Smartphones For Children)

“In an age when children learn how to use a tablet before they can ride a bike, making sure they have the freedom to play, learn and explore in the digital world is of paramount importance,” says U.K. Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham CBE, in a statement released by the Information Commissioner’s Office Monday. Denham’s office is looking for feedback as it continues a consultation running until May 31, according to BBC News.

The new code lays out 16 standards that social media companies and online services must meet, according to the Information Commissioner’s Office.

“It’s not restricted to services specifically directed at children,” Denham wrote of the new restrictions. “The code says that the best interests of the child should be a primary consideration when designing and developing online services. It says that privacy must be built in and not bolted on.”

“Nudge techniques should not be used to encourage children to provide unnecessary personal data, weaken or turn off their privacy settings or keep on using the service. It also addresses issues of parental control and profiling.”

“Social networks have continually failed to prioritise child safety in their design, which has resulted in tragic consequences,” commented National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) Andy Burrows to BBC News. NSPCC reportedly welcomes the changes.

Baroness Kidron, who led the parliamentary debate about the creation of the code, said:

“I welcome the draft code released today which represents the beginning of a new deal between children and the tech sector.  For too long we have failed to recognise children’s rights and needs online, with tragic outcomes,” according to a press release issued by the ICO.

“I firmly believe in the power of technology to transform lives, be a force for good and rise to the challenge of promoting the rights and safety of our children. But in order to fulfil that role it must consider the best interests of children, not simply its own commercial interests. That is what the code will require online services to do. This is a systemic change.”

However, other organizations have criticized the move.

“The ICO is an unelected quango introducing draconian limitations on the internet with the threat of massive fines,” said the Adam Smith Institute head of research Matthew Lesh, according to BBC News. “It is ridiculous to infantilise people and treat everyone as children.”

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