Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Twitter accused of Children’s Code violations

Many tech companies – including Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, and Twitter – are violating the newly introduced Children’s Code, according to research by charity 5 Rights.

The research, submitted to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) on Friday and originally reported by the Financial Times, alleged that many social media platforms such as TikTok, Snapchat, and Twitter “nudged” children into sharing their locations and receiving personalised advertising.

The researchers alleged though the Snapchat app anonymises its location feature Snap Maps by default for those under 16, it also “nudges” users to enable their locations, which can then be used for ad targeting.

However, Snapchat told the Financial Times that there were protections in place to stop the precise location data of younger users being used for targeted advertising purposes.

The digital rights charity’s report also claimed that algorithmic recommendations were serving up harmful material to children and potentially connecting them with adult strangers.

The report also claimed that under-16 users on Twitter were able to access graphic material via searching certain hashtags - such as “#shtwt”, “#ouchietwt”, and “#sliceytweet” - including razorblade recommendations.

The Children’s Code, also called the Age-Appropriate Design Code, was introduced in August, and carries potential fines of up to 4 per cent of global turnover for companies that fail to comply.

The news comes after Ofcom introduced additional new measures earlier this week to crackdown on terrorism, child sexual abuse, and racism related content on video sharing platforms (VSPs) such as TikTok.

“We believe every single thing we put forward here, all the pages of this report, contravene the first standard of the code, which is: it is not in the best interests of the child,” said Baroness Beeban Kidron, chair at 5Rights.

“It is against the Twitter rules to promote, glorify or encourage suicide and self-harm,” said a Twitter spokesperson. “Our number-one priority is the safety of the people who use our service.”

They added: “If tweets are in violation of our rules on suicide and self-harm and glorification of violence, we take decisive and appropriate enforcement action.”

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