Catch up with the online safeguarding news stories for August, in easy to read bitesize news segments.
1st August – Time limit tools introduced on Facebook and Instagram: Following a consultation process with leading mental health experts and organisations, Facebook announced the introduction of new tools to tackle what it called social media addiction. This comes in the form of an activity dashboard, available to its users to help limit notifications and control time a user spends online. They have also made it available on their sister site – Instagram.
4th August – Confectionary giant Mars pulls ads from YouTube: Mars withdrew its advertisements from YouTube after some of its brands were shown on Drill Music videos. Drill Music has been linked to gang violence with rappers often promoting and fuelling gang rivalry. One of its adverts for Starburst featured at the beginning of a video by the group Moscow17, which featured the group rapping about going to war with the police. A few days prior to the Mars withdrawal, one of Moscow17 members was stabbed to death in Camberwell, south London. A spokesperson for Mars said they wouldn’t return to the media platform until they were satisfied that appropriate safeguards were in place.
14th August – Instagram accounts hacked: Some Instagram users reported that their accounts had been hacked in unusual circumstances. Their profile photos were replaced by random stills from movies including: Despicable Me, Pirates of the Caribbean, Dumber and Dumber and Shrek. Account names and email addresses were also altered, preventing the affected users from accessing their accounts. It is difficult to say how many users had been affected and what the purpose of the hack was, but it appears to have affected over a thousand users and has been going on for over a month.
15th August – Twitter bans right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones: Initially Twitter suspended Jones’s Twitter accounts for a week, but later made this permanent. However, his past tweets will remain viewable. For those who are unfamiliar with Jones, he is US radio host who also runs several websites, including the notorious InfoWars, devoted to fake news and conspiracy theories. This includes claims that the 9/11 attacks were organised by the US Government. He has caused much controversary, which has gathered pace in the last few months, particularly around his theories of the recent school shootings in the US. One of his claims is that many of the children who were shot, were actually actors and the shootings were staged. He had about 1.3 million followers on Twitter. Facebook, YouTube, Spotify and Apple Podcasts have also banned InfoWars.
16th August – Celebrities misleading users in social media advertisement: The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) began an investigation into celebrities who are being paid to endorse products on their social media, but not making this clear to their followers. They are calling for celebs to be transparent about what is a commissioned post (for which they are paid) and what is personal. The CMA are concerned at the scale of the problem and feel that celebrities could influence the shopping habits of millions of people. A number of minor celebrities have recently been admonished by the Advertising Standards Authority.
20th August – EC intends to fine social media firms who don’t deal with extremist content promptly: The European Commission (EC) announced that they are proposing to introduce new legislation to ensure that social media platforms delete extremist content within one hour or face a fine. Effectively this would replace the current system where social medias platforms self-police. In a news report, the BBC they quoted a study by the ‘Counter Extremism Project’ which revealed that between March and June, 1,348 videos relating to the Islamic State group had been uploaded to YouTube, via 278 separate accounts. Of these 24% of the videos had remained online for more than two hours. The EU say this is unacceptable and have made the first move towards introducing legislation to make the platforms do more.
24th August – YouTuber Chris Ingham accused of grooming young fans: YouTuber Chris Ingham who runs the ‘The Ingham Family’ channel on YouTube, posted a 20-minute video denying allegations that he had groomed a child. Claims originating from The Sun newspaper, claimed that he had sent inappropriate messages to teenage fans. The Ingham Family channel has over 1 million subscribers who follow the daily lives of the Ingham family. Without naming Ingham, the police confirmed that they had received an allegation, but the girl involved was over 16 year and therefore no offences had been committed.
30th August – Video game boxes to feature in-game purchases warning: The Pan European Game Information (PEGI) organisation plan to introduce warnings on video game boxes, advising consumers whether the game they are about to invest in, contains in-game purchases. This is particularly useful for parents/carers who will now be able to identify whether their child is playing a game where they can get involved with in-game spending. PEGI also intend to add an in-game purchase icon to their current descriptors. The new warning should be on boxes by Christmas.