UK plans talks with Big Tech to limit online harm for teens


Sunak’s administration has been studying a crackdown on social media access for children under the age of 16, including potential bans, Bloomberg reported last year. — Reuters

The UK government plans talks with Alphabet Inc, Apple Inc and other technology giants to push them to sign a voluntary charter granting parents more control of social media use by young teens, people familiar with the matter said.

British ministers intend to launch a consultation later this month to gauge ways of limiting the potential harm to children caused by social media, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the discussions are private. The proposed voluntary charter may involve tech firms agreeing to alert parents when their children are repeatedly looking up disturbing content, they said.

Government officials are concerned that the technology firms, which also include Elon Musk’s social media company, X, and Meta Platform Inc’s Facebook – will oppose the idea of a voluntary agreement, and plan talks with them as soon as this week. Some have already expressed resistance to the proposal, one official said.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s administration has been studying a crackdown on social media access for children under the age of 16, including potential bans, Bloomberg reported last year. Since then, Sunak’s deputy chief of staff, Will Tanner, has been working with the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology to find ways of enhancing parental controls and to examine the possibility of introducing more age restrictions, the people said.

Meta, Apple, Google and X didn’t respond to a request for comment. The UK government said in a statement that it doesn’t comment on “speculation”.

"Our commitment to making the UK the safest place to be a child online is unwavering,” it said.

Last year, British parents were warned by the National Crime Agency about allowing their children on Facebook, after Meta’s decision to introduce encrypted messaging raised concerns for their safety. Last week, Meta lowered the minimum age at which a child can use WhatsApp from to 13 years from 16 years in Europe. – Bloomberg

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