Internet Governance 4 November 2013

Protecting children the most vulnerable online users

Cintra Sooknanan
By Cintra SooknananGuest Author

The Internet is not a safe place. While there is a positive knock on effect that children who have access to technology have on those who are underprivileged and do not have access in being able to share tools and learning; there is the issue of children harming each other (through bullying) and themselves (via self generated images), in addition to paedophilia. Grooming is now the biggest issue for kids (alot of which has to do with self generated pictures).

What is the differentiation and variation between harmful content and criminal content? The two issues become very conflated from a governance point of view. Solutions to remove such harmful or criminal content can be to: issue a takedown notice, blocking list until such content is removed, and report the content.

In itself, technology plays a huge role through family safety settings, guidance and education, and providing the customer and consumers with tips on online safety. An example is photo DNA created by Google (which is made free to law enforcement) which creates a ‘DNA’ of the worst of the worst images and ensures those are removed. A report on how Technology is able to thwart crimes online will be available in spring next year.

ITU and UN support the global cybersecurity centre through IMPACT and child online protection. There is a holistic framework of 5 pillars-

–       Legal measures

–       Technical measures/standards

–       Organisation structures

–       Capacity building

–       International cooperation

It is necessary to assist countries in building national frameworks and this requires an understanding the difference between developing and developed countries in terms of implementation. UK law is strict and can be used as a back office tool to help remove harmful and criminal content, though there are specific cultural nuances that may need to be applied. For instance Mauritius is utilising UK law in this way and is hosting a youth engagement summit in December and Uganda is setting up a similar system. With the trend in Africa for children to have access via mobiles as opposed to in a classroom, such cultural nuance makes it is more difficult to monitor.

The cost of investment to provide child protection online is large and there is scope for the private sector to get involved. Consumers chose the service provider that can facilitate child safety. But this does not just provide a competitive advantage, it is a good thing to do and demonstrates good business sense. Microsoft is one organisation which forms partnerships with the Internet Watch Foundation and law enforcement. In the future public/private and public/civil society partnership in this area will become more relevant, though this depends on the private sector becoming more concerned about this issue and having a responsibility for everyone to have a safe experience online.

It is particularly interesting to see the changes in content patterns, in particular the prevalence of a particular type of harmful and criminal content, as well as where the content is hosted. There is a need to educate parents, teachers, advocates, law enforcement of these trends and appropriate safeguards in a way that can reach children (for instance kids mentoring kids, as well as training kids to know how to deal with threats and mitigate risks online).

Session Details:WS 327 Protection of most vulnerable children online

22 October 2013- Day 1; 9-10.30am: Room#2 Nusa Dua Hall1

Disclaimer: Viewpoints expressed in this post are those of the author and may or may not reflect official Internet Society positions.

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