Is regulation going to help tech protect us from ourselves? Should we be scared for teens online or scared of them?‍

December 8, 2022
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A recent study by The Guardian found 34%, of a study of 8000 16-19 year olds, are engaging in digital piracy, whilst 1 in 8 have admitted to engaging in online harassment.

The concerns arise, why young adults are engaging in this behavior, how social networks are allowing it to happen, and should we be fearful about a rising dangerous generation? 

Samuel Bailey, Social Marketing Analyst at Nash Squared, gives his take on the attempts to regulate behaviours online.

As hacking, fake accounts, cyber risk and trolling become a huge issue across all social platforms, safeguarding seems to be consistently missing the mark and young adults are finding new ways to contribute to a growingly dangerous online community. 

The evolution of TikTok following a long Instagram domination, has given anyone the chance to post almost anything, with seemingly loose and often misguided community guidelines.

TikTok’s main ‘safeguarding guideline’ is its age restriction of anyone under the age of 13, however anyone on the platform can see there are children under this age still finding their way on. Moreover the content is often extremely unsuitable for many people above this age, and is rarely taken down, despite the guidelines stating it is not tolerated.

This continues to be an issue for many, if not all, mainline social platforms, and recent news of Elon Musk’s buying of Twitter and campaign to stop this has seemed to not yet break ground. 

Regulation and monitoring of content continues to be an issue for many social platforms. This has only been further highlighted by the recent acquisition of Twitter and Elon Musk’s view of free speech. But where is the line drawn between free speech, and preventing harmful behavior and content on social media? 

The resurgence of the Online Safety Bill into Parliament has been met with great criticism. Described as the ‘Frankenstein’s monster of legislation’ and a ‘shining beacon of mediocrity’, the bill resurfaces under its fifth Prime Minister with its initial intention lost in translation. Unlike its founding purpose, to prevent online harassment and hate, under many hands the bill has morphed into a bid for free speech. But would free speech aid or halt the growing harassment that fuels social media? 

The idea that a bill establishing free speech is synonymous with a bill trying to prevent online harassment, unfortunately, doesn’t quite land. As previously stated, a culture of extreme violence, danger and harmful influence is surging across the younger generation and social media is a breeding ground for this. Surely free speech would just enable this behavior? 

Parents of a recent victim to the dangers of social media violence, Olly Stephens, are grateful for the resurgence of the Bill. They hope it will set a precedent for the country, and other countries to put restrictions in place. This is unfortunately under the impression the Bill is going to put control of restrictions and guidelines on the state. But too many cooks have resulted in big changes for the legislation and an angle of free speech is beginning to turn the table back to platforms who seem so incapable of self-regulation. 

Ultimately, once this Bill is passed, will it protect us, and will it protect our youth? Unfortunately it is hard to say. It feels as though the legislation may have suffered a slow death through a thousand cuts, especially in its ability to effectively do what was initially hoped. It is hard to know what will make it into the final draft. Social media apps cannot be blind to what is happening amongst young people, and society cannot allow more children to die under the status quo.

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