Parliament has announced a another inquiry into online child safety, to be headed by Conservative MP and anti-porn campaigner Claire Perry. She got noticed due to her impractical campaign to force ISPs to block porn unless people opt to receive it.
According to a press release on Claire Perry's constituency website, the inquiry will seek:
1) To understand better the extent to which children access on-line pornography and the potential for harm that this may cause
2) To determine what British Internet Service Providers have done to date to protect children online and the extent and possible impact of their future plans in this area
3) To determine what additional tools parents require to protect children from inappropriate content
4) To establish the arguments for and against network level filtering of content that would require an 18 rating in other forms of media
5) To recommend to Government the possible form of regulation required if ISPs fail to meet Recommendation no.5 from the Bailey Review.
Public evidence sessions will take place in Committee Room 7, House of Commons between 14:00 and 16:00 on September 8th and October 18th.
The inquiry will include approximately 60 MPs and gather feedback from ISPs as well as parents and many others [but probably not those who actually enjoy adult material on the internet].
The Parliamentary Inquiry into Online Child Protection has begun to take comments from a rather predictably selective group.
The committee has heard comments from the Lucy Faithful Foundation, the Mother's Union, YoungMinds, Marie Collins Foundation, Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology at LSE, Jacqui Smith, the Sun's agony aunt Deidre Sanders and Jerry
Barnett, managing director of the UK's largest adult VOD site.
Jacqui Smith, the disgraced former Home Secretary, had a few ideas that caught the interest. She told the Inquiry that online pornography should be made harder to access in Britain, but that the quid pro quo for helping the industry to remain
profitable might be that it could help fund sex education programmes for children.
She said that the online pornography industry is not illegal, and it is being impacted by free and unregulated content on the internet . She proposed that if all adult content were only accessible to customers who specifically opted in to it
through their internet service providers, then the adult industry might see its profits improved. Online porn has suffered economically in the wake of free YouTube-style sites.
She added after the inquiry. If there are restrictions put on to what people can see, that will have a beneficial effect on the industry. If government or ISPs put in place restrictions that does enable the mainstream industry to [recover
economically], that would be the point at which you could apply pressure.
Smith was keen to stress that she did not propose limiting or censoring legal pornography, but that she wanted to make sure only people who were allowed to see it could do so. I genuinely don't think mainstream pornographers want young people to
see their material because it risks limiting what they can make for adults, she said. She conceded that her proposal may be technically challenging.
She said that the adult industry was already in a parlous state and that it would be unlikely to be able to fund education programmes at the moment. She said that although the chances of her proposals coming to fruition are not great, there
are reasonable people in the porn industry .
The committee will take evidence from ISPs next month.
Call to regulate video game loot boxes under gambling law and ban their sale to children among measures needed to protect players, say MPs. Lack of honesty and transparency reported among representatives of some games and social media companies in giving
The wide-ranging report calls upon games companies to accept responsibility for addictive gaming disorders, protect their players from potential harms due to excessive play-time and spending, and along with social media companies
introduce more effective age verification tools for users.
The immersive and addictive technologies inquiry investigated how games companies operate across a range of social media platforms and other technologies, generating vast amounts of user data and operating business models that
maximise player engagement in a lucrative and growing global industry.
Sale of loot boxes to children should be banned Government should regulate loot boxes under the Gambling Act Games industry must face up to responsibilities to protect players from potential harms Industry levy to support independent
research on long-term effects of gaming Serious concern at lack of effective system to keep children off age-restricted platforms and games
MPs on the Committee have previously called for a new Online Harms regulator to hold social media platforms accountable for content or activity that harms individual users. They say the new regulator should also be empowered to gather
data and take action regarding addictive games design from companies and behaviour from consumers. E-sports, competitive games played to an online audience, should adopt and enforce the same duty of care practices enshrined in physical sports. Finally,
the MPs say social media platforms must have clear procedures to take down misleading deep-fake videos 203 an obligation they want to be enforced by a new Online Harms regulator.
In a first for Parliament, representatives of major games including Fortnite maker Epic Games and social media platforms Snapchat and Instagram gave evidence on the design of their games and platforms.
DCMS Committee Chair Damian Collins MP said:
Social media platforms and online games makers are locked in a relentless battle to capture ever more of people's attention, time and money. Their business models are built on this, but it's time for them to be more responsible in
dealing with the harms these technologies can cause for some users.
Loot boxes are particularly lucrative for games companies but come at a high cost, particularly for problem gamblers, while exposing children to potential harm. Buying a loot box is playing a game of chance and it is high time the
gambling laws caught up. We challenge the Government to explain why loot boxes should be exempt from the Gambling Act.
Gaming contributes to a global industry that generates billions in revenue. It is unacceptable that some companies with millions of users and children among them should be so ill-equipped to talk to us about the potential harm of
Gaming disorder based on excessive and addictive game play has been recognised by the World Health Organisation. It's time for games companies to use the huge quantities of data they gather about their players, to do more to
proactively identify vulnerable gamers.
Both games companies and the social media platforms need to establish effective age verification tools. They currently do not exist on any of the major platforms which rely on self-certification from children and adults.
Social media firms need to take action against known deepfake films, particularly when they have been designed to distort the appearance of people in an attempt to maliciously damage their public reputation, as was seen with the
recent film of the Speaker of the US House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi.
Regulate 'loot boxes' under the Gambling Act:
Loot box mechanics were found to be integral to major games companies' revenues, with further evidence that they facilitated profits from problem gamblers. The Report found current gambling legislation that excludes loot boxes because
they do not meet the regulatory definition failed to adequately reflect people's real-world experiences of spending in games. Loot boxes that can be bought with real-world money and do not reveal their contents in advance should be considered games of
chance played for money's worth and regulated by the Gambling Act.
Evidence from gamers highlighted the loot box mechanics in Electronic Arts's FIFA series with one gamer disclosing spending of up to £1000 a year.
The Report calls for loot boxes that contain the element of chance not to be sold to children playing games and instead be earned through in-game credits. In the absence of research on potential harms caused by exposing children to
gambling, it calls for the precautionary principle to apply. In addition, better labelling should ensure that games containing loot boxes carry parental advisories or descriptors outlining that they feature gambling content.
The Government should bring forward regulations under section 6 of the Gambling Act 2005 in the next parliamentary session to specify that loot boxes are a game of chance. If it determines not to regulate loot boxes under the Act at
this time, the Government should produce a paper clearly stating the reasons why it does not consider loot boxes paid for with real-world currency to be a game of chance played for money's worth.
UK Government should advise PEGI to apply the existing 'gambling' content labelling, and corresponding age limits, to games containing loot boxes that can be purchased for real-world money and do not reveal their contents before
Safeguarding younger players:
With three-quarters of those aged 5 to 15 playing online games, MPs express serious concern at the lack of an effective system to keep children off age-restricted platforms and games. Evidence received highlighted challenges with age
verification and suggested that some companies are not enforcing age restrictions effectively.
Legislation may be needed to protect children from playing games that are not appropriate for their age. The Report identifies inconsistencies in age-ratings stemming from the games industry's self-regulation around the distribution
of games. For example, online games are not subject to a legally enforceable age-rating system and voluntary ratings are used instead. Games companies should not assume that the responsibility to enforce age-ratings applies exclusively to the main
delivery platforms: all companies and platforms that are making games available online should uphold the highest standards of enforcing age-ratings.