It’s time for online age assurance to come of age
In the offline world we have robust systems to prevent children from accessing things which may harm them. People have to show ID before purchasing alcohol and cigarettes, or before entering nightclubs or casinos. We don’t ask for someone’s date of birth and take it on trust.
Government commissioned me to look at what can be done to protect children online before the Online Safety Bill and to protect children’s voice as part of the legislation.
In this commission on how to protect children from harmful content in the online world, I paid a particular focus to the role of age assurance.
Last year I convened major tech firms. I called on tech firms to take action now to protect children online. They need to do more to stop children stumbling across harmful content and to reliably assess users’ ages.
I stressed that companies should adhere to broad principles of privacy-preservation, efficacy and inclusion when developing age assurance technologies.
All major social media platforms have terms and conditions setting out a minimum age for signing up, in recognition of the risks posed to children. However, as Ofcom found 42% of children aged between 5-12 use social media. This must change which is why I have been calling for robust age assurance.
There is much more to be done across the online world, and soon.
I won’t stop pressing tech firms to do more to protect children ahead of the Online Safety Bill, until we see meaningful change.
I will continue to issue information requests and to convene tech firms, and to hold these companies to account on their progress to keep children safe.
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