Algorithms 'not solely to blame' for harm against children online, warns BCS

As the government announced the introduction of the long-awaited Online Safety Bill to parliament today, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT has said that singling out algorithms as responsible for children’s online safety is ‘passing the buck’.

The organisation warned that blaming social media algorithms for harming children without equal emphasis on education risks the Online Safety Bill’s success.

BCS said that a combination of ethical design choices in those algorithms, supported by strong digital education and media literacy, was more likely to make the internet safer long-term.

“It’s true that the public doesn’t trust any organisation - including tech companies and governments - to use algorithms to make decisions about them,” said Dr Bill Mitchell, director of policy, BCS. “But blaming the algorithm in this way is passing the buck.

"It’s how we collectively make design choices is where the problem lies. It’s also when we make badly informed choices or ones that are influenced by our own ignorance or unconscious prejudice - that is how we end up with algorithms that cause harm.

“When algorithms are ethically designed and competently developed, they can genuinely help improve our daily lives and the chances of solving the big problems in the world, such as caring for an ageing population and climate change.”

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