Paris (NWN) – Internet giants including social media apps Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat joined several world leaders at the Paris summit on Thursday to issue a global call to better protect children online.
The call, initiated by France and the United Nations child protection agency UNICEF, acknowledges that “in a digital environment, children can manipulate harmful and violent content and information. Like adults, children have a right to privacy, which is respected.” should be done. “
The text also listed “threats heightened by technology” including cyber bullying, sexual exploitation, prostitution, human trafficking, sexual and gender-based violence or violent online bigotry.
“We call on all governments, online service providers and relevant organizations to stand up for the rights of children in the digital environment,” it said.
Signatories include Amazon, Google and YouTube, Facebook and Instagram’s parent company Meta, Microsoft, Snapchat and Twitter. Eight nations have joined the call, including France, Italy, Argentina, Jordan and Morocco – though not the United States.
About 30 heads of state and government and US Vice President Kamala Harris were participating in the Paris Peace Forum, which began on Thursday. The summit, held both in person and online, brings together world leaders, CEOs, NGOs and others to discuss global issues such as climate, the COVID-19 pandemic and the digital transition.
Macron chaired a session about children’s rights in the presence of YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.
“We should regulate content and authorization tools so that an 8-year-old, a 10-year-old, a 15-year-old … is not exposed to all the content without rules,” Macron said. They should go through the parental controls installed by default on some devices, he said. He also stressed on the need to educate children about the risks of social media.
Macron, Harris, EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also attended another roundtable on regulating the digital domain with Microsoft President Brad Smith. Harris announced that the US is joining a Paris call launched in 2018 to improve security and better regulate cyberspace.
Child rights advocates have for years urged internet giants to take action to better protect children.
Last month revelations by whistleblower Frances Haugen about internal Facebook studies on the harms of Instagram on teens intensified parents’ concerns about the popular photo-sharing app.
Justin Atlan, head of the “e-Enfance” group advocating for the safety of children on the Internet, attended the Paris Peace Forum.
“We can make a lot of tools… but all these tasks are useless because kids lie about their age. For me, that’s the bigger issue,” she said. “So I think we all need to have one. There is a need to work together and find solutions.”
Nora Frasse, the head of a French union fighting school bullying, praised “a pivotal moment” that puts “international pressure” on the internet giants.
Frasse founded “Marion La Main Tendue” (“Marianne the Outstretched Hand”) after his daughter Marion committed suicide at the age of 13, because she was being harassed at school.
About popular social media apps like TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, he said, “Those who are spreading hatred through their pipes, they take some responsibility.” Cyberbullying and bullying at school are often intertwined.
Frasse said social media companies should request proof of identity as a first step and have better control over the content published.
Social media companies generally prohibit children under the age of 13 from signing up for their services, although it is widely documented that children sign up with or without their parents’ permission. Huh.
Frase, who spoke in schools about online risks, also called for better educating children and parents on these issues.
He cited a nationwide study conducted by his association this year that showed the proportion of those who attempted suicide was higher among children bullied in school (12%) than in the general population (7%).