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Ofcom warns social media giants they could be banned for under-18s

Ofcom warns social media giants they could be banned for under-18s

Ofcom is warning social media sites they could be banned for under-18s if they fail to comply with new safety rules.

The media watchdog published draft codes of best-practice which now require tech firms to have more rigorous age-checking measures, and to reformulate their algorithms to steer children away from harmful material.

Ofcom boss Dame Melanie Dawes said any company that broke the draft codes would be “named and shamed”, and said tougher action such as banning social media sites for children would also be considered.

Meta and Snapchat say they have put in place extra protections for under-18s, and offered parental tools to control what children can see on their platforms.

But parents of children who died after exposure to warped content online have described Ofcom’s fresh rules as “insufficient”, with one telling the BBC change was happening at a “snail’s pace” over the issue.

Esther Ghey, whose daughter Brianna was murdered aged 16 by two teenagers in February 2023 – including one who watched videos of torture on the dark web – told the BBC she believed Ofcom “really did care” about trying to get regulation right – but warned the full impact of harmful content was still an unknown.

She added: “I wonder how many children are actually struggling with their mental health, how many of them have been affected by self-harm that we don’t actually know about.”

Ofcom has a duty to enforce new, stricter rules following the introduction of the Online Safety Act and says they have more than 40 “practical measures” to protect kids.

The centrepiece is the requirement around algorithms used to target users with specific content.

Ofcom has said tech firms will need to configure their algorithms to filter out the most harmful content from children’s feeds, as well as to reduce the visibility and prominence of other harmful content.

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