This week, European Parliament voted into place a new law that increases the age of consent for online social media services, such as Instagram, Flickr and Snapchat, from 13 to 16, effectively banning any would-be photographers from sharing their work on social media networks until they reach the age of 16.
The law, which has been heavily protested, is part of a large overhaul designed to promote data protection. But, in practice, the new regulations will likely only create more trouble for the EU and social media companies as a whole.
Join us & sign the petition to stop law which says <16's can't access internet without parent permission. Sign here:https://t.co/fi1EYjabP6
— Anti-Bullying Pro (from charity The Diana Award) (@AntiBullyingPro) December 14, 2015
In accordance with past laws, almost all online services require users to be at least 13 years of age, a number compliant with U.S. and EU. By making it 16 in the EU, while it remains 13 elsewhere, it further complicates the guidelines by which websites need to screen new users.
— Jan Philipp Albrecht (@JanAlbrecht) December 15, 2015
Furthermore, a concern is that the new law will only increase the amount of kids who lie about their age online. In a rebuttal to the new regulations, the Diana Award Youth Board wrote up a rebuttal that stated:
This higher age threshold may incentivise children between the ages of 13 and 15 to lie about their age. Children aged 13 and above have long accessed online services; an artificial and sudden change to this threshold will likely result in many children between the ages of 13 and 15 lying about their ages in order to continue accessing online services – rather than asking their parents to consent
Though the law has passed, compromises were reached before the submission of the law that will enable individual countries to set their own age of consent – down to 13 years old – for online services.
The United Kingdom has already stated it will do just that by keeping its age of consent at 13, a move likely to be followed suit by other members of the EU.
In talks on Data Protection this thorny issue of age of consent for FB etc sorted – Countries can go down to 13 with National Law.
— Lord Kirkhope (@LordKirkhope) December 15, 2015
For countries that choose to follow EU law, penalties for social media companies allowing underage kids to access their platform can be up to 4% of global revenue, an incredible number considering how much money the likes of Facebook, Google, Yahoo and others pull in annually.
Getting back to the issue of lying about age online, the Advertising Standards Authority conducted a survey back in 2013 that found ’83% of the 11 to 15-year-olds whose internet usage was monitored registered on a social media site with a false age.’
So, regardless of whether or not individual countries choose to make their own age of consent or agree to follow EU regulations, the real world impact will likely be minimal. So long as companies continue to ask about age in a passive manner, it rids them of legal liability and instead leaves the responsibility in the hands of the individuals accessing the site (or their parents).
[via The Telegraph]