The Online Safety Bill - The impacts on your e-commerce business
Due to the rise in the use of technology and the growing popularity of digital platforms during the Covid-19 pandemic, the demand to moderate the exposure of minors to harmful content online has skyrocketed within the last few months.
While the internet is a powerful force for good, harmful content and illegal activities have become widespread online. Unfortunately, before this time, the absence of government legislation toward fighting cyber harms and threats has limited the effectiveness of censoring digital content providers.
Without government intervention, limited progress has been recorded in preventing digital platforms from sharing content that can harm kids or pollute their minds. That's the good side of the online safety bill and Kid Safety Act.
Combined efforts are needed to combat cyber threats, especially for the kids. In addition, there is an inevitable need to employ community measures and government intervention to police the web.
What is Kids Online Safety Act?
The Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA) imposes new measures, controls, tools, and transparency to shield minors from harm online.
It is landmark legislation that requires tech and other covered platforms to put new standards and tools in place to monitor kids' activities online.
The Kids Online Safety Act:
- Applies to any app or online service that could be used by kids 16 and younger
- Regulates the use of technology by minors and aims to protect children from its possible harmful effects
- Mandates tech platforms to effect changes to minimize kids' exposure to inappropriate content online
- Requires social media and e-commerce companies to provide tools designed to prevent minors from being exposed to content that might negatively affect them
- Seeks to implement new safeguards and control mechanisms for minors online and bring transparency to the issue of how tech platforms affect kids.
KOSA requires tech giants and e-commerce websites to put new protections such as controls that limit explicit images or language to minors. It would also need tech giants and e-commerce websites to hire people - or build tools - to help parents moderate what their kids are exposed to online.
KOSA is laudable for its attempt to improve young people's online data privacy and update 1998's Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule (COPPA), which is already over two decades old. While COPPA only applies to children under thirteen, KOSA covers anyone under sixteen.
What is Online Safety Bill?
The Online Safety Bill aims to protect children from potential hazards from the use of the internet and tech platforms. The new UK Online Safety Bill seeks to regulate social media and tech giants around their services. New criminal offenses and significant changes have been proposed. Online platforms covered by the bill include SaaS, e-commerce, and electronic services, whether non-profit or commercial. It is a broad initiative with far-reaching implications for the UK tech industry and the global online space. It is also expected to spur further international legislation changes due to its expansive scope.
While there is a justifiable attempt to shield minors from harmful content online, the onus is on covered platforms to step up their games to avoid unnecessary fines and punishment that may follow in the coming months. One of the ways to achieve this is to make provision for third-party audits to identify potential issues that may be arising in protecting minors from harmful content online. It is equally important to report such matters to appropriate quarters when the need arises.
OSB vs. KOSA: Understanding the Ultimate Goal
While these bills emanated from two different countries, the goal of these bills is clear and transparent. The bills aim at:
- protecting children's health and well-being online,
- fostering more vital online privacy protection for minors and;
- shielding kids from harmful online content.
The bills underscored renewed government commitment to protect minors from digital hazards and harmful content. The Online Safety Bill attempts to make the United Kingdom farther safer for users and improve online safety for children. This bill can be referred to as one of the most recent efforts by the government to regulate online content that could affect the global online market. It is intended to create a new way to regulate online content and make the UK the safest place to be online. In addition, the kids Online Safety Act, sponsored by US legislators, also intends to protect children from being exposed to harmful content online.
Impacts of Online Safety Bill and Kids Online Safety Act
Both bills have been welcomed mainly by advocates of child rights and protection. However, they pose some challenges for many e-commerce businesses and website owners. For example, the bills increase the need to raise the bar on data gathering, management, and ID verification. And all these will lead to more challenges for website purchases and marketing. Some of the challenges to anticipate include:
Growing Demands for Compliance
Ecommerce businesses will need to improve their identity and age verification systems to meet the growing demands for compliance by regulatory agencies. This would require all users to submit personal data for age verification in compliance with new laws. In addition, measures should be in place to verify the age of every user and filter out the under-age to ensure compliance.
Increasing Needs to Embrace Changes
If you fail to deliver what your competitors can in terms of customer service and new features quickly and easily, you risk being left out. You can also end up being sued for non-compliance with new regulations. Therefore, your e-commerce business should be flexible to adjust your business model, scale your processes, and adapt to the constantly changing market to meet new rules on time.
Security of Harmful Content from Minors
Covered platforms need to control, censor, and checkmate minors' access to online content. It would also be reasonable to prevent kids from exposure to certain content that other age groups may have unlimited access to.
Demands to erase and restrict existing minors' accounts
Digital platforms need to comply with the new rule by deleting existing accounts or restricting new ones that underage children may attempt to create, resulting in the removal of personal data.
Reduction in web conversions
Since the new bills are parts of emerging legislation that mandate tech platforms to put new controls in place for the safety of minors online, it would have far-reaching effects on website transactions, consumption, and purchases. As a result, a significant drop in e-commerce purchases and sales conversions is expected in the coming months.
Prohibition of Advertising Certain Products to Minors
Another implication of the KOSA and Online safety bill is that it would become illegal to facilitate or promote products or services detrimental to kids' physical, mental, and emotional health. Any covered platforms guilty of these rules can be tried under the law, and appropriate punishment would be meted out to erring parties.
What do the new UK Online Safety Bill and US KOSA mean for users?
The bill implies that most e-commerce businesses and other industries that involve web purchases are liable for new offenses and potential fines by UK or US government. Hence, tighter rules and better data verification must be in place to escape the heavy penalties that attract erring companies. However, it does not stop there. E-commerce websites that fail to put the proper measures in place should be ready to face sanctions in the coming months, including jail terms. While many tech giants have always escaped fines and sanctions in the past, Online Safety Bill may be the new dawn that the digital world needs to experience decorum. In addition, identity and Age verification will become mandatory in the coming months.
The time to develop fail-proof strategies to fish out erring users is now!
Despite all the efforts by tech platforms to ensure strict compliance, some minors would still scale through all the hurdles to discourage children from accessing harmful content. That's where the use of tools and devices to fish out users that are not compliant with the new regulations come in. Every covered platform should leave no stone unturned to ensure total compliance and absolve itself from any possible rule violation. In addition, measures should be put in place to block anyone suspected to be minor and restrict their abilities in other similar platforms by default.
Age verification with BlueCheck
BlueCheck specializes in customized identity and age verification solutions tailored to unique needs and challenges. BlueCheck is committed to compliance with industry regulations, like the UK online safety bill and US Kid Online Safety Act, and works diligently toward best practices in comprehensive digital identity management. BlueCheck streamlines and automates identity verification challenges and provides an ideal solution for e-commerce platforms to verify users' age without impacting conversion or putting the visitors on hold.