Social media apps will be forced to shield kids from dangerous challenges

The Online Safety Bill will also include higher standards for age verification tools

Britain will tighten protections to prevent children from viewing pornography and dangerous challenges and stunts on apps.

Under the government’s latest amendments to the Online Safety Bill, the law will specifically refer to material that “encourages, promotes or provides instructions for a challenge or stunt highly likely to result in serious injury” as the type of content under 18s must be shielded from.

Tech firms will also be ordered to proactively prevent youngsters from seeing harmful content, such as material encouraging suicide and self-harm.

The landmark legislation will include higher standards for age verification tools used by firms that publish or allow porn on their platforms.

TikTok has come under fire for videos featuring dares such as the blackout challenge, which encourages users to hold their breath until they pass out due to a lack of oxygen and has been linked to the deaths of at least 20 children. The Benadryl Challenge has also claimed lives – this sees participants take an excessive amount of the anti-allergy medication in a bid to experience hallucinogenic qualities.

In another amendment, the communications watchdog Ofcom will produce guidance for tech companies on protecting women and girls online.

Under the new version of the bill, the sharing of deepfake intimate images will be made illegal in England and Wales. In a further change, platforms will be required to ask adult users if they want to avoid material that promotes self-harm or eating disorders or racist content.

When the bill comes into effect, social media providers can be fined up to £18m or 10 per cent of global turnover (whichever is greater) if it does not comply. In extreme circumstances, Ofcom can block platforms.

Paul Scully, minister for tech and the digital economy, said: “This government will not allow the lives of our children to be put at stake whenever they go online; whether that is through facing abuse or viewing harmful content that could go on to have a devastating impact on their lives.”

“To prevent any further tragedy and build a better future for our children, we are acting robustly and with urgency to make the Online Safety Bill the global standard for protecting our children.”

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