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Bill Magee
Scots child protection institute and Interpol in novel link-up to fight cybercrime


Scotland's Childlight Global Child Safety Institute, hosted by the University of Edinburgh, is supporting Interpol in a seven-year 30 milion ($38m) deal to fight to end online child sexual exploitation online.

Holyrood/Connect reported a linking of databases it is hoped will accelerate police forces' response to children at risk by equipping them with appropriate information.

Childlight CEO Paul Stanfield described the move as "game-changing" to help end what is a nightmare for young people. Its research indicates 300 million youngsters across the world are victims every year.

Interpol - Wikipedia



The agreement is timely.

Big Tech's reluctance to bend to growing demands to highlight health warnings on social media sites, specifically to alert young people of the dangers of likely toxic content, should not surprise us one scintilla.

The largest tech companies on the planet have never really adhered to regulatory compliance moves. In their relentless pursuit of eye-watering profits expect them to continue to give little more than lip service.

Especially with the advent of the generative artificial intelligence (genAI) era reckoned to bring with it trillions of dollars in new revenues.

Ofcom research reveals social media feeds are dominated by the 16-24 age range "typically using nine communications sites or apps regularly." Such social usage saturation has not come about by accident.

Slicktext.com research reveals children aged 8-10 spend around six hours per day in front of a screen, increasing with 11-14 year olds spending about nine hours daily, levelling out to 7.5 hours for teenagers aged 15-18.

Statista reports children spend, on average, 127 minutes per day on TikTok, followed by Instagram 40 minutes daily and Facebook 15 minutes. Add Snapchat along with TikTok each overtaking Instagram in popularity.

It's easy to think we've been here before but in a distinctly different era as it's being compared to the Big Tobacco debacle of yesteryear.

But there's a crucial digital distinction between the two despite both majoring on safeguarding youngsters from being compromised online and via mobile channels. Or cigarette smoking.

In the case of the latter it took years of lobbying before tobacco companies acceded, albeit grudgingly, to finally place health warning labels on cigarette packs. The US in 1966 and UK five years later.

Then the marketplace was dealing with a single issue and a highly-visible one, at that. The blanket lighting up and smoking of fags in one's face, in the home, pubs, restaurants, workplaces, out in the street.

Representing a long-standing way of life going back centuries. In 1604 James V1 of Scotland, James 1 of England, historically described newly-introduced tobacco as "that insidious weed."

Post-2nd World War there was a concerted drive to discourage young people from indulging in what could easily become a lifelong habit. For as long as that life lasted, given the threat of various illnesses including lung cancer.

And yes, young folk are plumb centre of the current social media row but this time around things are far more complex. To the point, unfortunately, where it's doubtful any reversal, never mind solution, may ever come about.

MIT Technology Review describes "social" as involving millions-upon-millions of youngsters indulging in the online/mobile pastime globally, warning of a highly-sophisticated "gamification" at play of their young lives.

By using gaming mechanisms based on reward, a social media platform gives instant feedback. The user chases the next, hopefully, self-validating post that could be a "like" perhaps even a lifechanger. Then the next post, then the next..

Ofcom describes social media as "not all that social" adding how children are gravitating to "dramatic" online videos designed to maximise stimulation but requiring minimal effort and focus.

Enter the world of disinformation, deepfakes, bullying and harmful content that, worryingly, appears to be growing in intensity.

Add to growing online isolation with a Children Media Lives study sees significantly less content created by friends and when they do interact, it's usually through chat or messaging apps. Not face-to-face.



There is hope.

As Big Tech continues to um and aw in the face of growing pressure from global health and regulatory authorities, users beyond their mid-twenties, as other pastimes hopefully kick in, reduce their number of hours online. But it is still around six hours daily.

A UK Online Safety Act comes into force in 2025 but it is claimed will not go far enough, in terms of being robust enough with age-checking measures to steer young people away from questionable material. Digital social time will tell...


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