Report – Is The Internet Really Broken?
Can publishers, creators, parents and governments trust computers and algorithms to make intelligent decisions about what is shown to children online?
- Big platforms (especially Google) are placing an increased importance on algorithms both to model their users for advertising and to control what content is provided to them. However, without proper moderation you cannot always be sure that what these algorithms provide will be entirely appropriate (especially for children).
- Parents and children need to be taught better media literacy skills so that they have the tools to safely navigate online providers. However, it is too easy and dismissive to place the entire burden on parents.
- Content creators for online platforms such as YouTube do not face the same strict obstacles to publishing their content that you will find in other areas such as broadcast TV. They do not have to deal with compliance and legal restrictions on their content and so may more easily find themselves (deliberately or accidentally) releasing inappropriate content.
Ruth Amos from Kids Invent Stuff directed questions to the panel regarding the way that internet platforms such as YouTube provide content to users. She acknowledged that the conversations that we are having about the responsibilities of content creators and platforms that host them are not new necessarily, but that they are having new ramifications in this age of internet connectivity.
Rachel Coldicutt from Doteveryone suggested that algorithms could be banned from targeting children and that there should be stricter rules about how companies can use them.
Ben Brooks from Little Dot Studios acknowledged that while algorithms can work for protecting children, any changes to them can have vast and unexpected results, for example a blanket removal of advertising revenue for creators.
Consultant John Kent agreed that regulation on the internet needs a brush up. He noted that many platforms are happy to sweep issues of child users away by trying to push the responsibility onto parents or by pretending that children are not using their services.
Entrepreneur Ben Towers also believes that content creators need to be incentivized to consider the ethical impact of what they create. Would Logan Paul have created such controversial content if one of his considerations had been that advertisers might not wish to be associated with him?
The panel then fielded questions from the audience, noting that the issue of how to safely regulate the internet is a tricky and divisive one. There was not one simple answer as the key takeaways show but there are definite areas where regulation could make the internet a more secure tool.