How can we protect everyone for the risks we observe online?
Did you know, that despite all the vitriol we observe on social media, the UK is one of the world’s leading countries for reforming online safety in the use of technology?
The UK Council for Child Internet Safety was founded in 2008 after young people were already using the internet. This continues to be our world-wide approach when using the world wide web; develop a website or an app (e.g. Tinder for teenagers) then manage the risks afterwards.
A new duty of care
At what point did it become acceptable for us all to enjoy the benefits of technology in return for ignoring its dangers? And how can we flip the practice around so that security is applied first?
The Online Harms White Paper set out the intention to improve protections for users online through the introduction of a new duty of care on companies with the government committed to ensuring that the UK is the safest place in the world to go online.
As a result, this report on Safety Tech with respect to the harms, risks and technologies, is one of the fast-moving environments and I am keen to see how the UK will go about protecting our young people.
Safer tech is defined as any organisation involved in developing technology or solutions to facilitate safer online experiences, and to protect users from harmful content, contact or conduct.
This includes social media giants with an ultimate focus on protecting children.
I’ll lay my cards on the table early. I believe anyone creating a social media account has to prove their identity. For example, their driver’s licence.
Dr Mary Aiken, one of the key team members of this report says in her brilliant book, ‘If Safer Internet Day actually worked, why do we need to keep on repeating it every year?’ She also raises a valid point about cyberbullying. It is now more prevalent online than it is in the real world.
Aiken has fundamentally changed my views on our use of social media, so much so, it has altered how I manage social media after 15 years of posting. However, logging off to protect oneself should not be the way to manage free speech.
This Safer Tech paper shortlists 70 organisations dedicated to providing relevant safety and services for those in the UK. This sector generated £226m in annual revenues in 2019, and it has grown rapidly with an estimated 35% annual growth rate since 2016. It is worth skimming through the report just to discover those leading UK organisations (pg 27).
This research used a grounded theory approach to understand the technical response utilised to reduce online harm. For example, trolling. The purpose was to understand:
- the removal of illegal content online
- to detect and share online harm threats
- to develop trusted online platforms that are age-appropriate
- to verify and assure the age of users
- to identify and respond to instances of online harm, bullying, harassment and abuse
- to filter, block and flag harmful content at a network or device level
- to detect and disrupt false, misleading or harmful narratives and
- advise and support a community of moderators to identify and remove harmful content.
There is an excellent safer tech taxonomy and 5 key recommendations:
- A need to promote and increase awareness of the UK Safety Tech sector
- Supporting Safety Tech firms to access the right forms of capital
- Getting the policy landscape right – with government providing leadership
- Enabling improved access to data
- Supporting innovation, cross-disciplinary research and development in Safety Tech.
Safer Tech will provide value to society. It will help illegal content, such as child sexual exploitation and abuse, disinformation and terrorist imagery and material.
Download the full paper.
We must all work to reduce the risk for users, including children, being exposed to harmful content, such as grooming, bullying, radicalisation and/or viewing self-harm material. This also starts with our online behaviours as teachers and parents.