OFCOM PUBLISHES VSP GUIDANCE ON HARMFUL CONTENT
UK media regulator Ofcom has published guidance to video-sharing platforms (VSPs) on how to protect users from exposure to harmful content online.
According to the guidance, VSPs will be expected to ensure that under-18s are not able to access restricted material, and no users will be able to access content on the platforms that is harmful, such as child sexual abuse material and content inciting violence.
Ofcom say they’ll act “immediately” in the event they detect a breach of their rules that has caused serious harm to users, or if it’s clear that tech companies themselves are not taking adequate action. Ofcom has powers to issue financial penalties of up to 5% of qualifying revenue in the event of noncompliance.
According to Ofcom’s research, one third of VSP users say they have witnessed or experienced hateful content, while more than a quarter have experienced violent or disturbing content.
Ofcom will publish an annual report into the steps taken by VSPs to comply with the guidance and add commentary on where there are industry shortfalls.
“DANGEROUSLY UNSAFE” TOYS SOLD ONLINE
Almost half of all toys sold online are unsafe for children to play with, according to a new report.
The report, produced by the British Toy & Hobby Association (BTHA), analysed a sample of toys sold to UK consumers via online marketplaces. It also found that 88% of the toys tested in the study were found to be illegal to sell in the UK, while 69% were still available for purchase online after having been recalled.
Many of the unsafe toys, which were often missing the appropriate age or safety certification, can pose serious health risks to children exposed to them. The BTHA cited one example of a 3-year-old girl who had to have major surgery after small parts of a toy bought online were found to have been lodged in her intestines.
“As consumers, we assume that online marketplaces are actively policing the safety of the products they sell. Unfortunately, that’s not the case,” said Child Accident Prevention Trust (CAPT), CEO, Katrina Phillips. “What’s more, the government has limited powers to force them to check if toys are safe or not.”
The BHTA has called on the government to increase its regulatory oversight of online marketplaces to prevent the distribution of online toys. At present, online marketplaces are not accountable for the goods sold on their platform through third-party sellers.
“WIDESPREAD” BREACH OF CHILDREN’S CODE BY TECH COMPANIES
Tech companies are responsible for a “widespread” breach of the Children’s Code according to Baroness Beeban Kidron, chair of the children’s charity 5Rights Foundation.
The comments were made in relation to a report by 5Rights into compliance with the code, which has been submitted as evidence to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
The code, formally known as the Age Appropriate Design Code, came into force in August and lists a number of conditions that online platforms must follow if they provide services to children.
The report by 5Rights analysed over 100 online platforms for their compliance with the code, including well-known social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram.
It identified a range of breaches, including the sharing of children’s data with third parties, inviting children to video-chat with strangers and algorithms which pushed harmful material at children.
“The ICO guidance says it is unlikely the commercial interest of a company would ever outweigh the best interest of a child,” Kidron told the Financial Times.
“We believe every single thing we put forward here, all the pages of this report, contravene the first standard of the code, which is: it is not in the best interests of the child.”
WARNING ISSUED AFTER RISE IN SCAM DELIVERY MESSAGES
Trading Standards Scotland has issued guidance on how to spot fake delivery company messages, which have become more common since the start of the pandemic.
Fraudsters send messages posing as common courier companies such as Hermes, before asking recipients to confirm their credit card details and pay additional processing fees using their phone.
According to consumer advice magazine Which?, fraudsters have been updating their tactics to make fake delivery scams increasingly convincing.
They now use sender IDs and fake delivery websites which closely resemble real ones, as well as offering parcel tracking services which convince consumers that they are tracking a real parcel that they have ordered.
Consumers have been advised to avoid any messages which request additional delivery or processing fees, especially if a time limit for payment has been demanded.
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