In this week’s news, we report on children at heart, self-harm, fake reviews and more.
CHILDREN AT HEART OF BUILD BACK BETTER
The Children’s Commissioner calls on the Government to put children at the heart of its plans to “build back better” after the pandemic, both through investment in schools for catch up lessons but also by providing extra curricula activities to build back confidence.
The Building Back Better report notes the huge change in recent years in the amount of time children spend online. Whilst acknowledging the positives, it highlights a growing awareness of the range of risks online – not just from risky contact but also from social pressures about appearance, online spending, data misuse and inappropriate content. Despite both schools and parents becoming more involved in educating children about these issues, the report criticises the online platforms which have failed to self-regulate themselves. It calls for Parliament to put the rights of children at the heart of the proposed Online Harms legislation and for the ICO to take robust action to enforce the Age Appropriate Design Code when it comes into force in September, particularly the age verification requirements.
RISE IN SELF HARM
A worrying increase in the numbers of hospital admissions for self-harm amongst both teenagers and younger children has led to a call by medical professional bodies for primary schools to be given training in how to spot the signs according to a BBC Radio 4, File on 4 programme. Professor Horton, a psychiatrist interviewed on the programme, suggested that whilst the cause of the increase is not known, there is speculation that the prevalence of discussions and images of self-harm on social media could spread awareness of the practise and lead to its normalisation as an acceptable way for young people to deal with their problems.
It appears that relying on reviews from customers on Amazon is no guarantee that a product will be as good as it seems. An investigation by which.co.uk into businesses offering review manipulation services, reveals large numbers of paid or incentivised reviewers as well as companies promising they can achieve “Amazon’s Choice” badge, by creating fake reviews and evading Amazon’s checks. Which? is calling for action to be taken against businesses which facilitate this fake news trade as well as more action by the online platforms affected. Their website has a comprehensive guide on how to spot fake reviews.
On a similar note, Trustpilot has published its first-ever transparency report this week. It reveals that during 2020, out of 39 million reviews, it removed over 2.2 million (5.7%) considered to be fake or harmful. Around 70% of these were removed automatically by technology. Of those removed, 42% related to 5 star reviews and 23% related to 1 star reviews.
SOCIAL MEDIA – OMEGLE AND TIKTOK
This week saw warnings about two social media platforms. One was Omegle, the chat service which pairs random strangers to chat via text or video. This was the subject of a BBC investigation which found inappropriate content on chats including both adults and young children exposing themselves. As a result TikTok, a site popular with children, took the decision to remove links to Omegle from its platform. TikTok itself, however, was not immune from bad publicity. It has been criticised for allowing risky, full face, hotwax treatments to be shown on the site. It has also had a claim against it lodged by The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) alleging multiple breaches of EU consumer law and failure to protect children from hidden advertising and inappropriate content.
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