Indigo Online: Are the ‘like’ button’s days numbered?

By April 16, 2019Featured

An example of a “nudge” notification, where the Yes option is significantly more prominent than the no option.

What’s not to ‘like’ about online regulation? That’s the question that social media providers grappling with amid a flurry of regulatory proposals in recent weeks, with the most recent, a White Paper from the UK Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), aimed squarely at protecting children and young people online.

This special Children’s Code of Practice is currently out for consultation until 31 May, with rules expected to be introduced in 2020. Among its aims is to protect young audiences from online tools such as the use of ‘like’ buttons that can encourage them to overshare personal information or spend too much time online.

In future there will be a presumption that default privacy settings for under-18s on sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, will be set to ‘high’, data collection will be minimised and parental controls embedded more strongly in companies’ working practices.

There are plenty of implications in this package of measures, not just for social media platforms, but for other organisations that engage with young people online. Going forward, all apps and sites that want to engage with under-18s will need to sense-check how they are incentivising engagement and tracking outcomes to ensure that they don’t fall foul of the letter and spirit of the ICO’s guidelines.

Because the ICO is suggesting that the cost of non-compliance will be linked to GDPR and therefore high. So, fines of up to 20 million euros (£17.2m) or 4% of companies’ worldwide turnover, not to mention the reputational damage that comes with a failure in duty of care to minors.

Not surprisingly some have reacted negatively to the prospect of further internet regulation adding to the creation of a new social media watchdog. The Internet Association UK, which includes the major social media platforms in its membership, has warned the changes may “stifle innovation and opportunities for smaller platforms to make life complicated for smaller platforms.”

Interested in engaging with the ICO’s consultation? Contract Indigo’s Public Affairs team to find out more.

Erith McKean
Social Media Executive