At a Paris summit on Thursday, internet behemoths like Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat joined numerous world leaders in issuing a global push to better protect children online.
The call, which was launched by France and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), recognises that “children can come across dangerous and violent content and information manipulation in the digital world.” Children, like adults, have the right to privacy, which must be respected.”
Cyberbullying, sexual abuse, prostitution, human trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence, and violent online radicalization were among the “threats magnified by technology” highlighted in the text.
“We urge all governments, online service providers, and related groups to advocate for children’s digital rights,” it stated.
Amazon, Google, and YouTube, Facebook and Instagram’s parent firm Meta, Microsoft, Snapchat, and Twitter are among the signatories. Eight countries have joined the call, including France, Italy, Argentina, Jordan, and Morocco, but not the United States.
The Paris Peace Forum, which began on Thursday, drew some 30 heads of state and government, including US Vice President Kamala Harris. The summit, which will take place both in person and online, will bring together world leaders, CEOs, NGOs, and others to debate global challenges like climate change, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the digital revolution.
In the presence of YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Macron presided over a discussion on children’s rights.
“We must regulate contents and authorization tools so that an 8-year-old, a 10-year-old, a 15-year-old child … cannot be exposed to all contents without rules,” Macron said. That must go via parental control installed by default on some tools, he said. He also insisted on the need for educating children about the risks of social media.
Another discussion on governing the digital domain included Macron, Harris, EU Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, as well as Microsoft President Brad Smith. Harris indicated that the United States will join the Paris Call, which was initiated in 2018 to improve cyberspace security and regulation.
For years, advocates for children’s rights have encouraged internet behemoths to take steps to better protect youngsters.
Whistleblower Frances Haugen’s revelations last month on internal Facebook studies on the effects of Instagram on teenagers heightened parents’ fears about the popular photo-sharing app.
Justine Atlan, the head of “E-Enfance,” an organisation that advocates for children’s online safety, attended the Paris Peace Forum.
“We can make a lot of instruments… but none of them are useful because youngsters lie about their age.” “This is the major concern for me,” she stated. “That is why I believe we must all work together to find solutions.”
Nora Fraisse, the leader of a French organisation dedicated to combating school bullying, hailed the announcement as “a watershed moment” that puts “international pressure” on internet behemoths.
Marion La Main Tendue (“Marion The Outstretched Hand”) was formed by Fraisse after her daughter, Marion, committed suicide at the age of 13 due to bullying at school.
She stated of major social media platforms like TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat, “Those who are propagating hatred via their pipes carry some responsibility.” Bullying in school and cyberbullying are frequently linked.
According to Fraisse, social media businesses should first request verification of identity and have more control over published content.
Children under the age of 13 are normally prohibited from joining up for social networking platforms, yet it is well established that children do so nonetheless, with or without their parents’ approval.
Fraisse, who lectures to students about the dangers of the internet, also advocates for better education of children and parents on these topics.
She noted a national research her organisation commissioned this year, which found that the number of children tormented at school who tried suicide is greater (12%) than the general population (7 percent ).
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