Today LINX persuaded the Home Office and child safety charities to accept operator judgement as to what child protection measures are appropriate for a given chat service; in return for this ISPs will be asked to accept the principle that chat service providers should consider what child protection measures are appropriate, and implement those that its own risk analysis shows are necessary.
For the last two years the Home Secretary’s Taskforce on Child Protection on the Internet has been writing a detailed set of requirements for the selection, recruitment and training of moderators of chat services. The scope of the document is extremely broad, covering services from web board chat and IRC to in game messaging and SMS-to-Television. The detailed recommendations within the document are also extremely prescriptive, a fact that caused LINX considerable concern. Although this Home Office Guidance is not legislation, most providers will be keen to show that they are fully compliant with Home Office Guidance, so it’s important to get this right.
The new requirements expected of ISPs and chat service operators will be:
If you or your organisation are providing, or intending to provide, a public interactive communications service that is likely to attract children, you should:
- Assess the potential risk to children, especially if it would be appropriate to use moderation and, if so, decide the form of moderation to use;
- If using human moderation, assess the risk that a child abuser may apply for a position and you should develop policies for the safer recruitment, training, management and supervision of moderators to safeguard against this;
- Make clear to users whether the interactive service is moderated, and if so, by what means, either human or technical moderation.
The key scoping clause that protects service providers from having to introduce measures that are pointless in the context of their particular service will read as follows:
The guidance provides details of all the factors that should be considered in determining whether moderation is appropriate, and if so, what is should comprise. It provides a framework, based on current best practice, rather than an absolute model to be followed rigidly irrespective of the circumstances. Interactive services are provided in various and constantly evolving forms and are aimed at different communities; providers are responsible for how they deliver their services. In determining the actions they should take, providers will need to take into account the particular nature of their services so that they can apply the relevant aspects of this guidance. It is for them to judge whether and how far to apply any specific point in the guidance; where they choose not to, they will obviously want to assure themselves that their decision is justified given the nature of the service and that it is consistent with child safety needs.
This document still needs approval by the Taskforce Plenary meeting, which is chaired by the Minister Paul Goggins MP, but having got this key agreement through the drafting subcommittee is a huge step forward.