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  • Published 31.10.22

    What a Child is Told

    Jutta Croll, SDC

    What a child is told (Was ein Kind gesagt bekommt) is the title of a poem by Bertold Brecht from 1937. It contains many sayings that you yourself may remember from your own childhood and ends with the words: "A child keeps its mouth shut". The poem is only available in German.

    Today, children are raised differently, and this is also an achievement of the United Nations, which adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) as a human rights treaty in 1989. The 196 states around the world that have since ratified the Convention have thus committed themselves to implementing the rights guaranteed therein for children under the age of 18. Article 44 of the UNCRC stipulates that every five years, states must submit a report to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, documenting the measures they have taken to implement children’s rights and the progress they have made. These reports are reviewed by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child and then discussed with government representatives at a hearing in Geneva.

    In 2019, the German government jointly submitted the 5th and 6th State Report, which was discussed before the Committee on the Rights of the Child in September 2022. Subsequently, the Committee published its so-called Concluding Observations. The increasing importance of the digital environment for the exercise and protection of children’s rights is reflected in the prominent treatment of these in the Committee’s remarks.

    Recalling its general comment No. 25 (2021) on children’s rights in relation to the digital environment, in §21 the Committee recommends that the State party:

    1. Allocate sufficient technical, financial and human resources to the newly established federal agency for child and youth protection in the media and ensure that it develops regulations and safeguarding policies to protect the rights, privacy and safety of children in the digital environment and to protect them from harmful content and online risks;
    2. Strengthen the implementation of laws that protect children in the digital environment, including the reformed youth protection act and the act to enhance the assertion of legal rights in social media networks, such as by providing for mechanisms to prosecute violations of children’s rights in the digital environment;
    3. Enhance the digital literacy and skills of children, parents and teachers, including by incorporating digital literacy into school curricula

    With reference to its 2019 guidelines regarding the implementation of the Optional Protocol, in §43 the Committee recommends that the State party:

    1. Expand the scope of the Media Youth protection Act to encompass all online applications and services where children are active and expand the definition of illegal content to the production of sexual abuse material of children between 14 and 17 years of age;
    2. Take all necessary measures to prevent, prosecute and eliminate the exploitation of children online and in travel, tourism and prostitution, including by: (i) requiring the digital business sector to put in place child protection standards; (ii) ensuring that Internet service providers control, block and promptly remove online sexual abuse material; (iii) encouraging travel enterprises to sign the code of conduct for the protection of children from sexual exploitation in travel and tourism; (iv) undertaking awareness-raising campaigns aimed at prevention for professionals working with and for children, parents and the public at large;
    3. Ensure that remedies are available to all child victims of offences under the Optional Protocol, including by expanding the scope of the victim protection law to allow for victims without a regular residence status to apply for compensation.

    The full concluding observations on the 5th and 6th State Reports from Germany, and thus what the German government is being told by the Children’s Rights Committee, is available for download here.

  • Published 17.10.22

    IGF 2022 in Ethiopia

    Marlene Fasolt, Stiftung Digitale Chancen

    Ethiopia’s government will host the UN Internet Governance Forum 2022 at the UN-ECA Conference Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from November 28 to December 2, 2022. The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) is a global multi-stakeholder forum for dialogue on Internet governance issues, which is convened by the United Nations Secretary-General. It will be organized in a hybrid format bringing together stakeholders from around the world to discuss the overarching theme: Resilient Internet for a shared sustainable and common future. Participants representing governments, intergovernmental organizations, the private sector, the technical community, and civil society (including academia) are expected to have meaningful IGF sessions both online and in a physical (hybrid) form.

    The host country has created a website for this year’s IGF that offers helpful information regarding hotels close to the venue, attractions, transportation, Covid-19, applying for a visa and customs.

    Visas are required for all foreign visitors to Ethiopia, with the exception of nationals of Kenya and Djibouti; and Diplomatic and UN passport holders. Before applying for a visa, you must first register for the IGF 2022 through the UN Accreditation Process and wait for the approval confirmation to be sent to your email. The approval usually takes a few days. After receiving the confirmation, you can email it together with a scanned copy of your passport biopage to the Ministry of Innovation and Technology (MinT) at igf2022@mint.gov.et. The Ministry will then send you the necessary documents to apply for a visa online which are: an invitation letter, application letter, and note verbal. More information on this process can be found on the host countries website.

    In our focus article “IGF 2022: Children’s and young people’s rights” you can find information on sessions that relate to children’s and young people’s rights in the digital environment.

  • Published 13.10.22

    "Caution: May contain traces of child protection"

    Jutta Croll, SDC / Torsten Krause, DKHW

    A working group of the European Committee for Standardization (CEN) and the European Committee for Electrotechnical Standardization (CENELEC) is currently working on the standardization of a framework for age-appropriate digital services. Clear guidelines are being established for the design of services aimed at or used by children, based on the requirements of the 25th General Comment on the Rights of Children in the Digital Environment, adopted by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in March 2021. This Europe-wide framework comes at the right time and can spur the implementation of precautionary measures laid down in § 24a of the German Youth Protection Act, which was also amended in 2021. This seems sensible and necessary - one and a half years after the new rules came into force - because the willingness of service providers to assume responsibility still has significant potential for improvement.

    In September, the company Electronic Arts Sports released the game FIFA 23, approved by the USK without age restriction. It’s great when even small children can immerse themselves in the fascinating world of digital football - you can’t start early enough to get children excited about the sport. It becomes critical, however, when children are tempted to improve their score by using cash in a really fascinating game with so-called loot boxes. These loot boxes, available for a price of 22.96 EUR via in-app purchases, contain content put together at random, i.e. they are costly bags of wonders. Even attentive parents will not get the idea that there is a high risk of commercial exploitation of children - and possibly the plundering of their own credit card account - in a game that is approved for ages 0 and up. So-called micro-payments - a term that is in itself questionable for amounts such as for the loot boxes in the game FIFA 23 - are a highly lucrative business for the providers; in Germany, a total of 4.2 billion in sales were made with in-app purchases in 2021.

    §10a of the German Youth Protection Act states that one of the objectives of the law is to protect the personal integrity of children and adolescents when using media. This objective requires a broad interpretation, because the vulnerability of children lies in very different areas and includes the danger of age-inappropriate incentives to play and buy. §10b of the Youth Protection Act regulates that circumstances of the respective use of the medium that lie outside the effect of the media content can also be taken into account in the classification as having an adverse effect on development. Risks due to purchase functions, mechanisms similar to gambling, as well as mechanisms that promote excessive media use behavior are explicitly mentioned here.

    The approval of FIFA 23 from 0 years of age took place within the framework of a regular test procedure in July 2022 according to the USK on the basis of the currently valid USK guideline criteria. According to the USK, the formal implementation of the new regulations of the Youth Protection Act started in 2021 and is to be completed by spring 2023, after which the adjusted guideline criteria for the testing of computer games will come into force. The age ratings issued until then will remain unaffected by the new guideline criteria - i.e. FIFA 23 will continue to remain without a labeling of the associated risks long after the youth protection amendment. Even though the USK argues in its statement that the decision regarding the age rating is correct from a procedural point of view, one may ask whether this satisfies the responsibility of providers to protect the personal integrity of children and young people, as they should also be committed to voluntary self-regulation.

    The Youth Media Protection Index 2022 presented in Berlin on 13 October on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the German Association for Voluntary Self-Regulation of Digital Media Service Providers (FSM e. V.) states that parents are more concerned than in 2017; three quarters of the respondents mention at least one concern, especially with regard to interaction risks, there is a significant increase. 72 percent would like to be able to see whether online services are suitable for their children based on corresponding labels. The number of parents who ascribe a high responsibility for the protection of minors in the media to the voluntary self-regulation bodies has also increased significantly, from 63 to 80 percent. Of these, 59 percent believe that self-regulation bodies do their job rather well to very well, a significant increase of 16 percent compared to 2017 and thus a high level of trust by parents in the structures of youth media protection, which the providers and self-regulation bodies must now take into account in a joint assumption of responsibility.

    The Federal Agency for the Protection of Children and Minors in the Media (Bundeszentrale für Kinder- und Jugendmedienschutz), which is responsible for enforcing the JuSchG, also provides impulses for this by entering into dialogue with providers and demanding measures for better protection of young people in the media. In a press release on 10 October they have asked game providers to explain which precautionary measures they intend to include in their game offers against gambling accustomization and dependency mechanisms in children. This is an important step to ensure that FIFA 24, 25, 26 ... contains more than just traces of youth media protection in the future. And to make the call to action appealing to the Cologne-based provider EA Sports with a song by the Cologne band de Höhner: If not now, when?

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