Prevent adults from sending direct messages to children, Ofcom tells social media companies

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Social media companies should face penalties if they don’t stop adults from sending messages directly to children, the Ofcom chief has reportedly said.

The communications watchdog will regulate the industry under the online mischief bill and have the power to impose fines on businesses and block access to sites.

And the Times reported that Dame Melanie Dawes will encourage the regulator to take a close look at direct messages when the new regulations are introduced in 2023.

His colleague, director of online security policy Mark Bunting, was quoted by the newspaper as saying that cutting off the grooming at the source was a “blindingly obvious” solution.

Speaking about the industry and the bill, Dame Melanie said, “I don’t think it’s sustainable for them to continue as we are. Something must change.

“What the regulations offer them is a way to have consistency across the industry, persuade users to fix things, and prevent what could be a real erosion of public trust.” .

“They really need to persuade us that they understand who actually uses their platforms and that they are designing for the reality of their users and not just for the older age group that they all say they have in their terms and conditions.”

The online mischief bill’s proposals provide for penalties for non-compliant businesses, such as significant fines of up to £ 18million or 10% of their worldwide turnover, depending on the amount. higher.

Andy Burrows, head of online child safety policy at NSPCC, told The Times: “We don’t see answers that are nearly proportional to the problem.

“If you want to meaningfully protect children, you need to disrupt child abuse as early as possible, and that’s a direct message.”

In August, Instagram announced that it would require all users to provide their date of birth, while Google introduced a series of privacy changes for children who use its search engine and YouTube platform.

TikTok has also started limiting the direct messaging capabilities of accounts owned by 16 and 17 year olds, as well as offering advice to parents and caregivers on how to support teens when they sign up.



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