Government Launches New Online Safety Guidance for Tech Companies

02 Jul 2021 UK SIC

The government has produced new guidance around protecting users online in response to smaller tech firms feeling ‘less confident’ in incorporating online safety measures. The guidance is there to support tech firms with relevant and appropriate information when products and platforms are developed so that online safety is prioritised and implemented from the start.

Protecting Children and Young People

This new guidance aims to minimise the risk of harm online by encouraging tech firms to design their platforms with appropriate measures in place specifically around child safety and overall user experience. They highlight the use of ‘age appropriate’ experiences, ensuring ‘age verifications’ are appropriately used across platforms that may be inappropriate for young children including social media. As well as this, it is advised that adults should be able to implement parental controls and restrictions by default without risk of children altering them.

 Filtering and reporting was also highlighted with firms encouraged to provide users with an easy, accessible method of reporting harmful content as well as ensuring that material revolving around search terms that could potentially be harmful are appropriately blocked out. There is information on protecting data as well as guidance on responding and reporting child sexual exploitation and abuse as well as wider topics such as promoting positivity across platforms.

David Wright (Director of UK Safer Internet Centre at SWGfL) said:

It is encouraging to see that over the last few months’, the government is actively prioritising online safety ahead of the Online Safety Bill. This new guidance is another step forward in protecting children online but it is now essential that the focus remains. For us, the UK Safer Internet Centre and all of our partners have been tackling these issues for many years, providing tools around reporting, filtering and security. It is now time for tech firms to take the appropriate responsibility and ensure they keep their users protected.

Will Gardner OBE (Director of UK Safer Internet Centre at Childnet) added:

“It is great to see practical resources to help tech companies, including start-ups, to ensure safety is built-in to their products and services. This resource released by the UK government, as well as those released by the Office of the Australian e-safety commissioner last week, have the potential to make a difference to what the future of tech can be. We need to make sure that these resources are shared to reach the people that need them at the time they need them.”

Tools to Support Online Safety

The following tools provided by SWGfL and the UK Safer Internet Centre can assist in your online safety responsibilities.

 IWF

Allowing users to anonymously and confidentially report child sexual abuse content and non-photographic child sexual abuse images.

The IWF would also encourage any small and medium sized companies to ensure that their platforms are safe by design. The services the IWF offer assist the tech industry in keeping their platforms free from CSAM. If you want more information, get in touch with their membership team using this form.

Report Harmful Content

If you have been a victim to or witnessed harmful content online, you can report it via our website. Content can include unwanted sexual advances, online abuse, bullying and pornographic content.

Test Filtering

Does your Internet Service Provider (ISP) protect your family, staff or students from harmful content such as Child Abuse content and Terrorist content? Is pornography accessible? Use our free test suite to check what is accessible and what is blocked.

Social Media Checklists

Downloadable booklets to help guide you through important privacy and security settings on the most popular social media platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Roblox, Tik Tok, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Netflix.

Guide for Parents to Prevent Online Child Sexual Abuse

A downloadable guide to help parents and carers understand the risks of online child sexual abuse: what it is, who does it, how it happens and more importantly, how to prevent it.

Safer Internet Day research

Hear young people’s thoughts towards fake news and misinformation in our Safer Internet Day research.

Childnet Digital Leaders Programme

The Childnet Digital Leaders Programme is a youth leadership training programme empowering young people to educate their peers about online safety. The young people who are part of this programme regularly give insight and share their experiences of online life, all whilst educating and inspiring their peers.

The UK Safer Internet Centre currently receives £1.3m from the European Union to deliver online safety helplines, hotlines and educational resources that are downloaded millions of times a year. This funding costs just 10p per child under the age of 15 in the UK. Despite the enormous impact this has on children’s lives we are yet to see any funding from the Government. It is time they honoured their commitment to child online safety in the UK and filled this essential gap.