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  • Published 21.06.21

    The European Digital Services Act must deliver for children

    5Rights Foundation, Stiftung Digitale Chancen

    Children and young people have long-established rights and protections offline and a life mediated by tech must be held to the same standards. Our digital world is a purpose-built environment, shaped through conscious choices. We must choose to build a digital world that supports and empowers young people and upholds their rights. The Digital Services Act represents a singular opportunity to ensure that children’s rights are respected, embedded and upheld online.

    Technology (or its absence) is now a defining feature of childhood. Yet children - who make up one in five users of digital services in the EU - live in a digital world designed by adults, for adults, and driven by commercial interests.

    The problems children face from the digital world are systemic. They are not restricted to technical bugs or bad actors but are also present in the features and architecture of the products and services on which children rely for access to education, health, entertainment, civic engagement and to manage their relationships with family and friends. Children are routinely presented with information, behaviours and pressures that they do not have the developmental capacity to negotiate. They are introduced to unknown adults, nudged to make in-game purchases, targeted by dangerous or harmful content, bombarded with targeted advertising and misinformation, and subjected to invasive, extractive data gathering.

    We need a better deal for children online, and in order to achieve this, children need to be recognised in the digital environment. The protections, privileges and rights which empower and support young people offline need to be upheld online.

    5Rights Foundation, supported by the broader children’s rights, human rights, digital rights and consumer protection communities, calls upon the European Parliament and Council of Ministers to include a children’s clause in the Digital Services Act requiring all providers of services likely to be accessed by or impact on children to uphold their rights, undertake child impact assessments and mitigate systemic risks to children’s rights, based on statutory standards.

    The DSA must guarantee a level of protection below which companies shall not fall, without precluding the provision of additional protections for children at national level, notably in view of technological innovations. The DSA's "one-stop-shop" enforcement mechanism should not inhibit the smooth and timely enforcement of children's rights throughout the territory of the Union.

    Now is the time to build the digital world that young people deserve.

  • Published 02.05.21

    More protection, provision, and participation for children on the Internet

    Stiftung Digitale Chancen

    The new Youth Protection Act came into effect in Germany on May 1, 2021.

    Providers of Internet platforms used by children and young people, must take precautionary measures to ensure better protection against interaction risks. This refers to risks potentially arising from the use of services and contact with other users. A specific precautionary measure would be safe default settings when a new user profile is created. Demanding this the new German legislation is based on the principle of "evolving capacities" in accordance with Article 5 of the UNCRC, i.e. the capacities that develop as children grow older. This allows younger children to start their online experiences in a safe environment. When they are more experienced in using the Internet and specific platforms, settings can gradually be loosened and more freedom can be granted.

    However, this presupposes that parents and other adult caregivers also have the necessary media literacy and educational skills to accompany children as they navigate their way through the digital world. Age labels and descriptors for digital media content and services as prescribed under the new Youth Protection Act are intended to provide support in this regard.

    In two years, the future Federal Agency for the Protection of Children and Young People in the Media (formerly BPjM) will evaluate the effectiveness of these legal regulations, with the help and participation of an advisory board that also includes young people. Acceptance for youth media protection measures is likely to increase significantly, especially among adolescents, if they themselves can participate in the development and evaluation. The new Youth Protection Act is a major step forward by strengthening the rights of children in accordance to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the basis of the 25th General Comment to the UNCRC and therefore also deserves international attention.

  • Published 30.04.21

    IGF 2021 Call for Session Proposals

    Marlene Fasolt, Stiftung Digitale Chancen

    The United Nations Multistakeholder Advisory Group calls for active participation in the Internet Governance Forum 2021 (IGF) program development. The IGF is an annual global multistakeholder forum for dialogue on internet governance issues. Stakeholders can submit a variety of types of sessions including workshops, open forums, lightning talks, networking sessions, and more until 26 May at 23:59 UTC. This year the IGF will take place in Katowice, Poland from the 6th to 10th of December and will be organized as a hybrid event. This means that participants can join on-site or online, which has to be considered when proposing sessions because all participants should be able to engage actively and have the same experience. This year the Multistakeholder Advisory Group (MAG) has opted for using an issue-driven approach to design the IGF 2021 programme. The goal is to work with fewer issues treated in greater depth, instead of having broad themes, like in past years. The two main focus areas this year will be (1) economic and social inclusion and human rights and (2) universal access and meaningful connectivity. There are also four cross-cutting issues including emerging regulations, environmental sustainability and climate change, inclusive Internet governance ecosystems and digital cooperation, and trust, security, and stability.

    Issues relating to children’s rights are of great importance for both main focus areas. The recently published General Comment No. 25 (2021) on Children’s Rights in Relation to the Digital Environment underlines the necessity to address the issue appropriately on all levels of policy making. Also children have expressed the importance of universal and meaningful access to the internet for children across the globe and the necessity to feel included and safe in the accompanying Report “Our Rights in a Digital World”. Human rights, children’s rights and child and youth protection are all important aspects of internet governance and need to be considered in all decisions made in regard of the internet.

    We strongly encourage the child rights community to participate in the programming and to submit a broad range of proposals as it was the case last year. To achieve acceptance of proposals it is particularly important to ensure the diversity in regard of regional origin, societal group, gender and age. Please contact us at jcroll@digitale-chancen.de if you would like to submit a workshop proposal and you need support in addressing international partner organizations or in selecting speakers. We will also be happy to help you fill in the necessary information in the submission form.

    More information can be found here.

  • Published 05.03.21

    New youth protection law: PARTICIPATION of children is a top priority

    Jutta Croll, Stiftung Digitale Chancen

    Berlin, 05.03.2021 The German Bundestag today passed the law on the reform of youth protection in the media presented by Federal Minister for Family Affairs Franziska Giffey. With the new regulations, the participation of children and young people, and thus one of the basic principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, is anchored in the legislative text for the first time. Article 12 of the UNCRC, paragraph 1 states "States Parties shall assure to the child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child, the views of the child being given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child." This will be directly implemented with the new Youth Protection Act: children and young people will be represented in an advisory board that will be established at the new Federal Agency for the Protection of Minors in the Media, where they will also participate in the regular evaluation of the effectiveness of the law.

    The change to the German legislation, which was last reformed in 2002, is long overdue, as the old regulations are no longer up to the challenges posed by digitalization and the changed living environments of children. The inclusion of children and young people in the shaping of contemporary youth media protection is logical, considering that they are often the early adopters of new digital applications, devices and services, and may be exposed to significant risks in some cases. These are now explicitly named in the law as follows: "Risks from communication and contact functions, purchase functions, gambling-like mecha-nisms, mechanisms to promote excessive media use behaviour, the disclosure of personal and usage data to third parties without consent, as well as age-inappropriate purchase incen-tives, in particular through advertising references to other media, are explicitly named in the law." The law obliges platform providers to take precautionary measures to counter such risks. These include child-friendly terms and conditions, safe default settings for the use of services that limit the risks of use depending on age, for example, by ensuring that user profiles cannot be found by search engines, and easy-to-find information on provider-independent advice, help and reporting mechanisms. Support in this regard can be provided by the organisations of voluntary self-regulation which, together with the service providers, should develop guidelines for the implementation of such precautionary measures and also include the views of children and young people.

    The Federal Review Board for Media Harmful to Young People, which is being reorganized and modernized as the Federal Agency for the Protection of Minors in the Media, is tasked with bringing together the stakeholders involved in the process of dialogic regulation and ensuring consistent law enforcement against providers.

    With the introduction of the new protection goal of personal integrity of children and youths as well as the promotion of orientation, the Youth Protection Act pursues a holistic approach: parents and educational staff are provided with uniform age labels and descriptors of risk potential as tools to select media applications and services that are age-appropriate. Through precautionary measures and orientation, children and young people are enabled to develop media literacy and to deal with media both independently and confidently.

    The rights and the protection of children are strengthened with the new Youth Protection Act, participation and involvement are emphasised, and the process of digital transformation of society is made a bit more child-friendly. Bravo, because Germany is the first country in the world to implement the requirements of the General Comment on the Rights of Children in the Digital Environment, which the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child adopted in February 2021, in an exemplary manner.

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