The Children’s Commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, has questioned claims by tech companies that it is impossible to keep children off platforms which they are not old enough to use due to lack of reliable age verification technology.

In a recent post, Anne Longfield outlined what she described as “the first step in redressing the balance of power between children and the tech giants”.

She said, “The digital world and children’s rights should not be in opposition — indeed, the internet can be an extraordinary force for good in children’s lives. But for too long the tech companies have failed to acknowledge the specific views and interests of children on their platforms, leaving many children unhappy and exposing them to harm.”

She argued that a crucial place to start this process is with the Information Commissioner’s age appropriate design Code, which is currently out for consultation.

She promised that organisations that fail to comply with the new Code could risk fines of up to £18 million or 4% of global turnover.

She said, “If all goes to plan the Code will come into effect before the end of the year, long before the Government’s keenly awaited online harms legislation introduces a duty of care. It is therefore vital that the Code is made as robust as possible, setting expectations high for everything that follows it — both nationally and internationally.”

In conclusion she added, “Whichever way you look at it, tech companies have some of the cleverest people in the world working for them. Can it really be the case that they can create driverless cars, see inside black holes and programme computers to beat the best human players of complex games like Go, but not find ways of making digital platforms fit for purpose for children? Of course not. And for the record, I’ve been reassured that it is all very possible.”

Last reviewed 29 May 2019