Websites will be forced to protect the safety and privacy of children under new rules2 min read

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Websites will be forced to protect the safety and privacy of children under new rules

  • The code of practice will force firms to prioritise children’s privacy and safety
  • It was welcomed by children’s charities following warnings about youngsters 
  • The code was unveiled by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO)

New rules to make the internet safer for children were unveiled yesterday as social media firms were told to do more to tackle online abuse.

The code of practice will force firms to prioritise children’s privacy and safety on their websites and any online services likely to be accessed by youngsters.

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It was welcomed by children’s charities following warnings about youngsters being exposed to pornography, gambling, bullying and self-harm online.

New rules to make the internet safer for children were unveiled yesterday as social media firms were told to do more to tackle online abuse (file image)

New rules to make the internet safer for children were unveiled yesterday as social media firms were told to do more to tackle online abuse (file image)

But other campaigners said it was too draconian and that websites would be forced to treat all users as if they were children, or introduce strict age checks.

They complained that the rules applied to search engines, social media sites, online shopping, games and other websites – not just those aimed at children.

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The code was unveiled by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – the UK’s data regulator – and is expected to come into force next year if it is approved by Parliament. Firms that breach it face fines of up to 4 per cent of their global turnover – potentially billions of pounds.

The code of practice will force firms to prioritise children's privacy and safety on their websites and any online services likely to be accessed by youngsters (file image)

The code of practice will force firms to prioritise children’s privacy and safety on their websites and any online services likely to be accessed by youngsters (file image) 

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said a fifth of internet users in Britain were children, adding: ‘There are laws to protect children in the real world – film ratings, car seats, age restrictions on drinking and smoking. We need laws to protect children in the digital world.’

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Andy Burrows, of the NSPCC, said: ‘This transformative code will force high-risk social networks to take online harm seriously, and suffer tough consequences if they fail to.’

But Dom Hallas, of the Coalition for a Digital Economy, which represents UK technology start-ups, said small firms could not afford to implement the new rules, which would leave children restricted to sites operated by tech giants.

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