Incoming UK Government must commit to implementing and enforcing children’s safety online regulation

The UK is home to some of the most robust and innovative children’s online safety regulation in the world. As the birthplace of the Age Appropriate Design Code (AADC) (2020) and the Online Safety Act (2023), successive UK governments have made huge strides in setting the standard for how tech companies must keep children safe while using their services. The AADC, which sets out rules for the use of children’s data, has inspired similar legislation in the US states of California and Maryland, and is under consideration in Argentina, Turkey and Indonesia. The Online Safety Act passed in October 2023 is similarly inspiring other jurisdictions, such as Canada.

However, to date enforcement of the AADC has been weak and the first draft implementation frameworks for the Online Safety Act have been disappointing.

The UK’s ambition to be the safest place in the world for children to be online will require robust commitment and action from the incoming government, both on implementation and enforcement of established law as well as on tackling emerging challenges such as AI and education-technology.

In the 2024 UK general election campaign, we call on all parties to commit to the following calls:

  1. Make implementing and enforcing children’s established rights under international and UK law a top priority. This means robustly enforcing the AADC and fundamentally reviewing the Online Safety Act’s implementation so that it builds on established best practices, is coherent with the AADC and delivers on the objectives of the Act and intention of Parliament.
  2. Prioritise children’s safety and rights in government tech strategy: Commit to delivering on children’s safety as a key priority of any proposed digital and tech strategy, as well as future policy, legislation and regulation. This includes swiftly and robustly addressing emerging issues such as the use of generative AI for the creation and distribution of child sexual abuse material and the lack of effective rules for the procurement and roll-out of commercial technology in schools.
  3. Keep promises to bereaved parents: Reintroduce powers to allow access to data from social media companies for coroners in the event a child has died and the service may have evidence to support the investigation.

[London, 10 June 2024]