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A Safeguarding Hub – 8-minute briefing

Catch up with the online safeguarding news stories that occurred in January, in easy to read bitesize news segments.

4th January – YouTube stars criticised for promoting ‘loot box’ gambling games to young people: YouTube stars were lambasted after they posted videos of themselves seemingly promoting ‘loot boxes’ linked to gambling. Loot boxes appear in video games and prompt players to spend money in exchange for random in-game purchases hidden in the boxes. Players don’t know what they are going to get until they have purchased the box. The YouTubers involved, posted sponsored videos of themselves spending big money on the boxes and ‘winning’ prizes. The UK’s Gambling Commission said they would investigate the company behind the promotional videos. YouTube did what every media platform tends to do when faced with controversary, they quoted their ‘robust’ protection policies……

One of the YouTube stars involved was Jake Paul, a controversial vlogger with 15 million subscribers to his YouTube channel. In late 2017 he earned widespread condemnation for posting a video of a corpse. Whilst filming a documentary in the Aokigahara forest, Japan, he and his film crew discovered a male who had committed suicide. He filmed the deceased and posted the video. The video went viral before he was forced to remove it. It is a sad indictment of modern society, that following the post, he earned an additional 300,000 subscribers.

4th January – A warning about hoax WhatsApp Gold upgrades: It was reported that some WhatsApp users had received an exclusive invitation to install a limited-edition version of ‘WhatsApp Gold’. This hoax edition is actually malware and has apparently been doing the rounds since 2016. Users who accept the invitation to upgrade are asked to click on a link to download the update. Once the user does this, their phone is infected with a very unpleasant virus.

5th January – Have you been hacked? : More than 1 billion people had their data compromised in 2018. A news story from MSN featured a report from digital privacy expert Daniel Markuson, who provided a breakdown of the major hacks of 2018. They include:

• British Airways — 380,000 accounts were hacked in August and September. Customer names, addresses, emails and payment data were all compromised.
• Twitter — the accounts and passwords of 330 million users were exposed by a bug.
• Google+ — 500,000 accounts were compromised. According to the report Google did their utmost best – not to fix it but instead to try and cover it up.
• Facebook — the social media giant had a 2018 hacking nightmare. The accounts of 50 million users were compromised in March. This was followed by 90 million accounts in September and a relatively small 7 million in December.

Other companies included: Ticketfly (27 million users), Uber (57 million), MyHeritage (92 million), Quora (100 million), Firebase (100 million), My Fitness Pal (150 million) and Marriott (383 million).

The moral of this particular story is that the more information you put online, the more you can have stolen. Keep your online presence to a minimum where you can.

16th January – Dangerous pranks banned on YouTube: The video sharing platform announced that they would ban and remove material which they identified as being harmful and dangerous pranks. They were prompted into action by recent stupid jokes and challenges that include, daring people to eat detergent sachets and driving whilst blindfolded. Whilst this is a welcome move from YouTube, critics point out that they still struggle to identify and remove other harmful content such as sexual exploitation, so why would identifying and removing harmful pranks be any different?

21st January – National Police Chiefs Council lead for child protection accuses WhatsApp: Chief Constable Simon Bailey accused WhatsApp of failing to stop paedophiles from sharing child abuse images on the messaging service. He called on the media firm to take urgent action to improve their identification and removal of such images. WhatsApp responded in the normal way ……. “zero tolerance” “robust policies”.

23rd January – Facebook apologises over the death of Molly Russell: Following widespread press coverage of the 2017 death of 14-year old Molly Russell, Facebook apologised on behalf of its company Instagram. Molly took her own life after having viewed disturbing content about suicide and self-harm on the social media site. Her father accused them of having “helped kill my daughter”. In a public relations exercise Facebook rolled out one of its executives to apologise. The company said graphic content which sensationalises self-harm and suicide “has no place on their platform”. They then wheeled out their head of global affairs and communications, Sir Nick Clegg, who promised to “change everything” to curb such harmful posts and talked about how the online media giant has a “profound responsibility” to safeguard young people. The government responded in the form of Minister for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock who issued the usual warning to the media companies – improve online safety or face legislation.

23rd January – Stars on social media agree to behave: For a while the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has been investigating the way some celebrities endorse products without making it clear that they are being paid to do so. Now many of the celebs involved have volunteered to tighten their acts up and change their practices. They will have to clearly state if they have been paid or received any gifts or loans of products they endorse. Some of the named celebrities named included: Rita Ora, Ellie Goulding, Michelle Keegan, Alexa Chung and Rosie Huntington-Whiteley.

25th January – Facebook tricked children into spending money: The release of court documents from a 2014 US lawsuit revealed that Facebook deliberately allowed children to spend money on its platform, by promoting in-app purchases within online games, without their parents’ knowledge. This doesn’t appear to be a case of turning a blind eye, but instead the papers suggest an active campaign by the media giant to encourage game developers to fill games aimed at young people with these money-making offers, in order to increase its own revenue. It is alleged that internally this practice was even given the nickname “friendly fraud “. Another allegation stated that they also had a nickname for children who spent large amounts of money, referring to them as “whales”, a term used to describe big spenders in casinos. Some children were allowed to run up several thousand dollars of debt. Facebook responded by saying that they regularly review their policies and in 2016 decided to provide dedicated resources for refund requests related to purchases made by minors on their platform. Apart from being a load of old blah, they appear to have missed the part where they carried out unethical practices against children.

Thanks for reading.

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