Natalie: Hello and welcome back – or if you’re new here, welcome to Safeguarding Soundbites, the podcast that brings you all the week’s online safeguarding news, alerts and advice. This week, Tyla and I will be chatting about the Reddit protests, the Online Safety Bill and more….Tyla, do you want to start us off with our regular round-up of social media news?
Tyla: Thanks, Natalie! Yes, there hasn’t been much happening in terms of social media updates this week. WhatsApp have released a new feature that automatically mutes calls from unknown numbers. This is a turn-on option for users and has been released to help combat spam calls. The ‘missed call’ alert will still show up in notifications and in a user’s call list, but the call itself will be silenced.
Natalie: I could see this being a useful feature for anyone who is getting spam calls as part of being bullied or harassed.
Tyla: Yes and also spam calls from scammers and marketing companies.
So apart from that update on WhatsApp, the main social media platform hitting the headlines this week is Reddit.
Natalie: Which is a bit unusual…well, maybe not recently with everything that’s going on over there but certainly not a social media platform we discuss often during Safeguarding Soundbites.
Tyla: That’s very true! You say “everything that’s going on over there” – do you want to give our listeners a quick round-up of what’s been happening with Reddit recently and then why it’s in the news now? Also, why it might be a concern for our listeners who are parents and carers?
Natalie: Sure! So Reddit recently announced that they were making updates to their API pricing structure.
Tyla: To their what-now?
Natalie: I think there’s probably been a major spike in google searches for ‘what is an API’ over the last few weeks! It’s basically technical jargon for how two or more computer systems request and receive data. So, in this situation, although the company Reddit has its own app for people to use, there are also loads of other apps for using Reddit that have been created by other people (or third parties). Lots of Reddit users prefer using these apps to browse Reddit over the official app. It might be because they prefer the way it looks, they find it easier to use, it’s what they’ve always used or because it’s said to be much easier to use for people who use screen readers.
Tyla: And that would be people who have difficulties accessing online content visually or physically – so if someone is blind or if someone has dyslexia?
Natalie: Yes, there’s all sorts of reasons why someone might prefer using a screen reader. But yes, the API is essentially when the third-party app requests data from Reddit and Reddit sends it back. Each
time this happens, it’s called a query. And Reddit is now planning on charging for anything over 100 queries a minute.
Tyla: I’m guessing that’s not a lot of queries if you have a lot of users – meaning it’s going to cost these other apps a lot?
Natalie: Exactly. And due to these upcoming API costs, many, if not all, of the big third-party apps have announced they can’t realistically continue to function and will be closing their app services come the changes on the first of July.
Tyla: Okay! Thank you for explaining that. So how on earth does this lead to a safeguarding concern?
Well, in response, users have been protesting. And one of the ways moderators of subreddits have been protesting is to change their settings to ‘not safe for work’ which is for users 18+. For a variety of reasons, including that users will be less likely to visit their favourite subreddits if they’re full of pornographic content, rather than posts about their favourite football team, this is aiming to hit Reddit in their profits.
Tyla: Right, I see where the concern comes in now – we have young people who will be visiting the platform now potentially being exposed to this content – whether that’s pornographic content, profanity, violence…
Natalie: Yes. And on Reddit, you just have to click a button agreeing you’re over 18 to view content or subreddits marked as ‘18 plus’.
Tyla: Not the best age verification system….
Natalie: Nope! So we’re advising that younger users avoid Reddit for a while. Also that parents and carers consider having a conversation about the importance of that ‘not safe for work’ (NSFW) warning. And importantly, what to do if they see content that upsets or worries them, such as coming to talk to them about it or one of their trusted adults.
Tyla: Okay. And we’ll maybe come back to this topic next week, Natalie, if there’s any updates?
Natalie: Sounds like a good idea. Okay, moving on now. Tyla, you have an Online Safety Bill update for us?
Tyla: I do, yes. Just a quick one! So this new piece of legislation, called The Online Safety Bill, is designed to reduce or prevent harm or damage coming to people when they’re online, basically to make the internet safer for everyone, including children. It will create new laws around things like protecting children from pornography, abuse, child sexual exploitation etc.
This week, there’s been some new amendments put forward to the government as the Bill goes through its stages to becoming law. One of the amendments would allow researchers to still be able to access data from platforms that they use to monitor harmful behaviour.
And the government has also been urged to add amendments that would strengthen age-checking and require Ofcom to provide a code of practice on preventing violence against women and girls. These suggested changes are being supported by groups like the Center for Countering Digital Hate, the NSPCC and the Molly Rose Foundation.
Natalie: Brilliant, thank you Tyla, we will watch this space, as it were! And for anyone who wants more information on The Online Safety Bill and what it is, you can head to our website ineqe.com and search for the online safety bill to read our guide to the bill.
New crime statistics released show that there were almost 2,000 online child sexual abuse reports made in Scotland, between April 2022 and March this year. During the same time, police carried out over 700 investigations in which indecent images of children and/or child sexual abuse materials were recovered, with a total of 486 arrests resulting in the protection of around 776 children. The investigations were carried out by online CSA enforcement teams, including the independent charity Stop It Now! Scotland.
Tyla: Yes and that group has also been running a great social media campaign this week, encouraging anyone worried about their own online behaviour regarding children to seek confidential and anonymous help now, which can be done through their website www.stopitnow.org.uk/scotland.
And finally, on to our Safeguarding success story of the week! In Wales, a new mental health hotline has been launched. Anyone who is experiencing urgent mental health problems can contact the 24/7 phone service, giving people access to a mental health professional without having to wait for a GP referral or attending an emergency department. And the service is available for all ages, so this is something that I’d encourage parents and carers in Wales to make their children and young people aware of – perhaps by bringing up that you’ve heard about it in the news.
Natalie: That’s brilliant news! Receiving good and timely mental health care is so important and something that has unfortunately often suffered or fallen to the wayside as a priority due to budget constraints and cuts. How can people in Wales access it?
Tyla: Yes, and knowing that in an emergency, there’s a number you can call to speak to a mental health professional is fantastic. The hotline can be contacted on 111 and then by selecting option two.
Natalie: Great, thank you! Hopefully something we see roll out in other parts of the UK one day. Okay, that’s everything from us this week – we’ll be back next week with a special edition just in time for the summer break!
Tyla: Yep, we’ll be having a special end-of-the-school year-round up and talking about some top tips for summertime, on topics like screen time and online challenges.
Natalie: Until then, give us a follow on our socials by searching for Ineqe Safeguarding Group or Safer Schools. Thank you for listening and…