The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)

Kids and the Digital Economy

In the last few weeks the CMF Digital Team has been busily engaging with Parliament. 

digital-economy-committee-stageLast week the CMF submitted a response to the Digital Economy Bill, which has been published in draft, and is now being considered and scrutinised by MPs in Committee before being resubmitted for debate in the Commons.

The CMF recognises one of the primary objectives of the Digital Economy Bill is to protect children against pornography and inappropriate data protection.  However, we feel there are many other concerns around children’s easy access to the internet that also need to be considered and that additional interventions are necessary in certain scenarios.  In short, we feel that the Bill does not go far enough to create real-world safeguards to protect children online.

In our submission, we suggest that there should be a general principle that platform owners have an obligation to make their services child-safe by design and then offer adults the option to opt out, once they prove their age, rather than the other way round.  While many platform owners will argue this is not possible, we believe this is only because it has never been a priority in this fast growing industry, where the objectives have been to ‘on-board’ new customers in the most efficient, friction-free ways possible, to maximise revenues as fast as possible.

We understand that it is also important to ensure that future innovation is not inadvertently stifled. However, if just a fraction of the internal Research and Development resources spent optimising features such as ‘ad-targeting’, were used to protect minors, kids online would already be in a much stronger place.

We have suggested that the Bill should include clear rules about what age verification is required for non-children’s content with an emphasis on the platforms to demonstrate that users are the age they claim to be, and that there should be an insistence that companies do not mine children’s data or target or manipulate children based on their online activity - particularly regarding marketing and advertising.

You can read more about the Bill at http://services.parliament.uk/bills/2016-17/digitaleconomy.html.

In our last newsletter we reported that the CMF had made a written submission to the Lords’ Communications Select Committee, which is conducting an inquiry into children's access to, and use of, the internet. The inquiry is still underway, and is hearing oral evidence and receiving written submissions. You can read our evidence, as well as all the other submissions on the Committee’s website.

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The Children’s Media Foundation (CMF)