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Business News/ Technology / News/  Age-Gating: Government plans 'risk-based' framework for social media, says report; experts explain the importance
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Age-Gating: Government plans 'risk-based' framework for social media, says report; experts explain the importance

The Indian government is considering a 'risk-based' age-gating framework for social media and internet platforms, requiring document-based age verification and parent consent. The framework is expected to apply to platforms like Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and edtech and health platforms.

Social media exposure—designed to maximize user engagement—can overstimulate reward centres in the brain and, when the stimulation becomes excessive, can trigger pathways comparable to addiction. (Ashish Asthana/Mint)Premium
Social media exposure—designed to maximize user engagement—can overstimulate reward centres in the brain and, when the stimulation becomes excessive, can trigger pathways comparable to addiction. (Ashish Asthana/Mint)

The government is mulling over a concrete "risk-based" framework with various criteria for social media and internet platforms to ensure a document-based age-gating and appropriate parent consent system, people aware of the matter told the Economic Times.

The risk-based age-gating framework is expected to be implemented by social media platforms like Meta-owned Facebook, Instagram and Google's YouTube, along with all edtech and health platforms, the report further added.

In the new framework, age verification for minors is expected to be done using document stores in DigiLocker, Aadhaar-based verification, A Digital Token or the App Store level, according to a government official, as quoted by ET.

"There cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach here," the official said, as quoted in the report. "Social media companies will need to adhere to stricter age-gating as the possibility of a stranger getting in touch with children or vice-versa is much greater here, compared to say, an education app or a website."

Why is age-gating crucial?

"More and more children are getting addicted to mobile phones. Social media addiction is leading to mobile addiction, affecting the mental and intellectual growth of children. The second impact is cyberbullying and grooming. Children get into interactions with online predators. Leading to various cases of child sexual harassment, grooming and child bullying on social media platforms. This is one of the reasons that the government is bringing age gating to mandate the verification of social media users' ages in India," said Jiten Jain, Cyber Expert and director of Voyager Infosec.

"Almost 35 per cent of social media users in India are minors. Unfortunately, today, social media users are starting at a very young age. Many times parents hand over the phone to kids just to keep them occupied. Leading to children accessing YouTube, Facebook and other platforms. The starting age group of social media users in India is growing younger and younger. The maximum number of minor social media users falls between the age range of 10-17 years old. Even children as young as 8 and 10 have a WhatsApp account," said Ashish Bhasin, Former Dentsu APAC CEO and founder of The Bhasin Consulting Group.

Minors between 9 years old and 17 years old spend at least three hours per day on social media, videos, or OTT, according to 61 per cent of urban Indian parents, a Local Circles survey found.

Parents are also more concerned about their children becoming more dependent, aggressive, impatient, depressed and countless other issues, according to the report. Parents have also described their children as hyperactive. About 73 per cent of parents want their consent to be needed before their minor children can create an account on any social media platform.

Additionally, "There has to be some regulation for minors from an advertising point of view to stop, for example, liquor promotion to them or any age-inappropriate content. Another threat is fake information, which affects children deeply in their formative years. Lastly, digital addiction is also making children socially awkward," Bhasin added.

How is the new risk-based framework for age-gating different?

"One of the globally used mechanisms is age-gating, i.e. before you enter a website or a game, you are asked to verify your age. But the problem with this concept is that if it is a self-declaration process, then everyone will just press enter to access the site. This is what has happened in the case of porn sites. The government is now intending to make the age-gating process mandatory through document verification. It can't be on the basis of self-declaration," Jain explained.

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Published: 23 Nov 2023, 04:32 PM IST
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