Technology

Social media companies asked algorithms not to recommend harmful content to children | British News

Ofcom says social media platforms need to do more to stop their algorithms recommending harmful content to children.

The regulator has published its draft child safety codes of practice, setting out the new standards it will expect from tech giants to protect children under the Online Safety Act.

But two mothers who believe their children died by copying dangerous social media challenges say they feel “belittled” by Ofcom for failing to listen to grieving parents.

Sky News spoke to the mothers of Archie BattersbeeWHO died at the age of 12 after a “prank or experiment” went wrong at their house and Isaac Kenevan13, who is believed to have died after taking part in a choke challenge on social media.

“You should listen to us as grieving parents,” said Isaac’s mother, Lisa.

“Ofcom has the power, the policing and we feel we have been belittled. They’ve said certain things, but there’s just no action at the moment.”

Archie’s mother Hollie explained: “I’ve seen a handful of parents going through what we’re going through now and it’s heartbreaking… in a civilized society this shouldn’t happen.”

When the government passed the Online Safety Act last October, it brought with it new enforcement powers for Ofcom.

Both Hollie and Lisa have campaigned tirelessly to get the law passed and are both frustrated at how painfully slow the process is proving to be.

Ms Kenevan said: “This law has been introduced but nothing has really changed, which is frustrating for us, it’s almost an insult to us because we’ve put in so much work.”

“It’s too late, our boys have left… but Ofcom should really step in and keep both feet to the fire… intervene quickly to stop the contents staying in there in the first place.”

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Taming algorithms

Ofcom’s draft code of conduct includes strict age controls, improved complaints procedures and a requirement for social media platforms to take action to curb algorithms that recommend harmful content to children.

If they fail, they could theoretically be fined 10% of their global turnover.

Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes told Sky News: “In less than a year we will be able to enforce these codes and what I am saying to the tech industry today is not to wait for that moment.”

“In the next few years we will experience this change and promote it with all the means at our disposal.”

“Big change for the industry”

Ofcom denies excluding anyone from its consultations, stressing that the 15,000 children and 7,000 parents it has already spoken to included victim groups and bereaved families.

Dame Melanie insisted: “We ask the families who have lost children as a result of what happened to them online to continue to work with us.”

“What we are proposing today is such a big change for the industry. Please work with us and talk to us so we can get this right.”

Fear of vulnerable children

For Archie and Isaac’s parents, fear about how many children remain at risk is ever-present.

Ms Kenevan said: “Sadly, while these laws are being implemented, more and more children are dying and that is the most frustrating thing because we are in a club that we don’t want to be in and we don’t do that. “I would like someone else to follow this Join the club.

To avoid every parent’s worst nightmare, change can’t come soon enough.

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