New Delhi: Amid mounting pressure regarding user privacy on social media platforms, LocalCircles, an online community platform, has written to the parliamentary standing committee on Information Technology (IT) urging it to look into issue of safety of children on social media.
LocalCircles has requested the panel to increase the minimum age requirement for opening accounts on Instagram, Facebook and TikTok to 15 years from the current 13 years. It has also asked the committee to ensure that social media platforms adopt robust age verification mechanisms so that under-age children are unable to sign up. In addition, these platforms must be made fully responsible for content and should be legally liable in case a child above 15 is subject to inappropriate content.
The request made by LocalCircles is backed by an internal survey covering 150 districts eliciting 23,000 responses. According to the survey, 73% of respondents did not want children to have any access to social media till the age of 15 years, while 82% wanted government and schools to define and enforce a minimum age for children to have social media access. About 59% were not in favour of children between age 11 and 13 years to have social media accounts even with parental consent.
“With easy access to smartphones children are accessing social media platforms at a fairly young age. It’s a huge concern for parents. We’ve shared our findings and hope the Parliamentary Committee discusses the issue with Facebook, Twitter and TikTok," said Sachin Tapria, founder and chairman, LocalCircles.
In its community guidelines, Instagram clearly states that it is not a place to support or praise terrorism, organized crime, or hate groups. “Offering sexual services, buying or selling firearms, alcohol, and tobacco products between private individuals, and buying or selling illegal or prescription drugs (even if legal in your region) are also not allowed," it says.
The popular photo-sharing platform has been taking down accounts which post pornographic or inappropriate content.
TikTok also states that it strictly prohibits any content that contains, promotes, or encourages sexual assault, abuse, exploitation or violence.
Social media platforms have been in the eye of the storm, with many accusing them of not doing enough to curb the misuse of their platforms. Many have ended up in legal battles worldwide including in India. For instance, short-video app TikTok was accused of promoting pornography among teens and temporarily banned from app stores following a Madras High Court order, while WhatsApp was slammed for not being able to curb fake messages which led to several cases of mob lynchings in 2018 and, more recently, for the Pegasus spyware attack. Twitter too has been criticised for failing to curb hate speech.