Protecting children online: Content, age and responsibility

Merrill Dresner reports from December’s Westminster eForum in London, which discussed children’s privacy online.

The government’s Online Harms White Paper(1) from April 2019 includes a proposal for a legal duty of care for online companies towards their users. This raises questions of what duties and liability should fall on social media platforms and tech companies. Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE, Professor of Social Psychology, LSE, said that the White Paper is a response to a rising call for action on protecting children online, although, in her opinion, much of the noise behind headlines is scaremongering for communication purposes. Her paper, The Adult Online Hate, Harassment and Abuse Rapid Evidence Assessment(2) , looks at existing evidence on online harassment. She said that the statistics behind the headlines do not always add up and are not a sufficient basis for regulatory action, so we need to think differently.

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