Thoughts on the report
“Growing up on the Internet” was published earlier this week by the House of Lords Communications Committee. The Committee Chair is Lord Richard Best, a highly regarded Crossbench Member of the Lord. He managed to recruit a first-rate team of advisers to help him write it.
I cannot find a single point of substance where I disagree with anything the Committee says or recommends although here and there could be certain differences in degrees of emphasis and I am less committed to some of their more specific institutional points. And of course when I speak about these things I tend to use more colourful language, but then I am free to do that in ways that, perhaps, their Lordships typically are not.
The Report is very much one for the policy wonks, but then it’s meant to be. It will be interesting to see how and when the Government responds. The timing of its publication could hardly have been better.
Top three most important recommendations of the report
The Government should establish the post of Children’s Digital Champion at the centre of the Government within the Cabinet Office, with a remit to advocate on behalf of children to industry, regulators and at ministerial level across all Government departments.
(The Government) should…establish minimum standards for child-friendly design, filtering, privacy, data collection, terms and conditions of use, and report and response mechanisms for all businesses in the internet value chain, public bodies and the voluntary sector. The standards should be set out in a code of conduct, which should also seek to promote digital literacy. If industry fails to implement the recommendations, then the Government should take action.
Social media and content sharing platforms services such as Google and Facebook, should respond quickly to requests by children to take down content. Where inappropriate content that concerns a child is reported by third parties, similar processes should be followed. Minimum standards should be adopted that specify maximum time-frames for report and response. Companies should publish both targets and data concerning complaint resolution.
I stress these are only my top three picks out of 38 different recommendations.
They are all worth a read and they all deserve to be considered carefully by every stakeholder.
Compulsory sex education, internet strategy & the Digital Economy Bill
At the end of February, the Government announced that sex education was to become a compulsory part of the national curriculum. Apparently, among other things, sexting, self-generated images and the harms associated with pornography are to be addressed within the new arrangements that schools will be making. Also at the end of February Karen Bradley MP, Secretary of State at DCMS announced the Government’s intention to develop a new internet strategy. The possibility of legislation was mentioned. Yikes!
And of course, the Digital Economy Bill, which addresses children’s access to commercial pornography sites, is coming to the end of its time in Parliament and will soon be law. There is a real sense of forward movement and change. The evidence collected by the Lord Best’s Committee and presented in the report plays straight into that space.