Hear from our grantee: Age Check Certification Scheme Why Age Assurance is key to empowering children in the digital age

Hear from our grantee – Age Check Certification Scheme
Why Age Assurance is key to empowering children in the digital age

What is Age Assurance and why is it important?

Age assurance encompasses the process of establishing, determining, and confirming age-related attributes, including verification, estimation, and inference. For instance, a social media platform may require users to provide a valid identification document to prove their age before granting access to content intended only for adults, like dating services. This process is crucial for child safety, as it prevents children from accessing potentially harmful material and helps maintain a secure online environment conducive to healthy development. 

Global Age Assurance Standards Summit - Affirming the Possibility of Age Assurance

In the United Kingdom, between 8th and 12th April, we hosted a Global Age Assurance Standards Summit, in collaboration with British Standards Institution (BSI) and supported by Safe Online. The Summit was attended by over 700 interested parties including governments, regulators, international organisations, civil society, academia, industry, age assurance service providers, standards developers and technical experts.   

The summit’s headline boldly declared: “Age Assurance Can Be Done.” This statement underscores the belief that, with the right processes and use cases, age assurance can be deployed effectively while preserving privacy, security, and efficiency. Moreover, it emphasizes the pivotal role age assurance plays in protecting children in the digital environment, serving as a valuable tool alongside other protective measures.  

Summit Communique

The Summit concluded with the development of the first-ever Communique on Age Assurance. The purpose of this document is to achieve a consensus view to reflect the position, state of the art and development of age assurance standards as of April 2024. After months of public consultation through BSI’s standards development portal, considering the input of global platforms (like Google, Meta, Microsoft and others), civil society (such as the Internet Watch Foundation, 5 Rights Foundation, NSPCC and others), regulators and many other interested parties from around the world; we were very pleased to publish the landmark document at the conclusion of the Summit.  

Guiding Principles and Call to Action

The communique is anchored in a set of guiding principles and calls to action, aiming to create a robust framework for age assurance globally:  

  • Principle 1: Upholding Individual Rights and Best Interests: Age assurance systems should prioritize the protection and empowerment of individuals in the online environment, respecting their evolving capacities and diverse needs.  
  • Principle 2: Data Minimization: Systems should collect and process only the necessary personal data, ensuring minimal intrusion and preserving privacy.  
  • Principle 3: Transparency and Accountability: Systems should be transparent in their processes and provide mechanisms for users to access and rectify their data, fostering accountability.  
  • Principle 4: Cooperation and Participation: Stakeholders should collaborate across sectors to ensure the effectiveness and consistency of age assurance mechanisms while supporting innovation and research.  

International Age Assurance Standards

The summit recognised the need for international standards to guide age assurance efforts. These standards are formed through ISO/IEC 27566, which are a set of global standards for how to approach building, deploying, measuring and testing age assurance systems, and are voluntary and flexible in nature and provide a common reference framework for stakeholders and promote a global, coordinated approach to child protection online.  

Moving forward

The Global Age Assurance Standards Summit serves as a catalyst for change in safeguarding children’s rights in the digital age. By embracing the principles outlined in the communique and fostering collaboration across sectors, we can create a safer online environment that respects and protects the rights and best interests of children worldwide. As we reflect on the outcomes of this landmark summit, let us heed the call to action and work together to implement age assurance standards that empower children, promote privacy, and ensure a brighter, safer digital future for all.

Read the Summit Communique

Image: © Age Check Certification Scheme (ACCS)

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Hear from our grantee: Age Check Certification Scheme Why Age Assurance is key to empowering children in the digital age

Hosted in collaboration with the British Standards Institution (BSI), this groundbreaking summit united over 700 global stakeholders to affirm a bold declaration: “Age Assurance Can Be Done!” With a focus on safeguarding children online, the summit produced a landmark Communique on Age Assurance, outlining principles like prioritising individual rights and data minimisation. Safe Online grantee, Age Assurance Certification Scheme, explains why age assurance is critical, the role of the first-ever Communique on Age Assurance and the way forward from this landmark Summit.

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Malaysia Takes Pivotal Steps Towards a Safer Internet for Children Following Data From Disrupting Harm

Malaysia Takes Pivotal Steps Towards a Safer Internet for Children Following Data From Disrupting Harm

In a landmark step forward for children’s online safety, Malaysia has made sex extortion and livestreaming of child sexual abuse distinct offenses, to enable better prosecution of these crimes. The Parliament of Malaysia, the Dewan Rakyat, approved a Bill to amend several provisions to the Sexual Offences against Children (SOAC) Act 2017.

As per the Disrupting Harm Malaysia report, developed with active support of the Government of Malaysia, sexual extortion and livestreaming of child sexual abuse remain some of the biggest threats that children face in the country. Sexual extortion includes being blackmailed to engage in sexual activities, having sexual images shared without permission, or being coerced to engage in sexual activities through promises of money or gifts. In fact, data shows that in one year, an estimated 100,000 internet-using children aged 12-17 were subjected to clear instances of online sexual exploitation and abuse, including sex extortion.

Disrupting Harm represents the most comprehensive and large-scale research project ever undertaken on online child sexual exploitation and abuse at the national level. It has resulted in 13 country reports including Malaysia and a series of unique ‘data insights’. Implemented by UNICEF Innocenti, ECPAT International and INTERPOL and funded by the Safe Online initiative at End Violence, it provides comprehensive evidence concerning the risks children face online, how they interlink with other forms of violence and what can be done to prevent them.

The Malaysia report shares a series of unique insights specific to the country including the fact that children mainly experienced online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA) through the major social media providers including messaging platforms. More worryingly, Helplines and the police were almost never utilised to seek help by children who were subjected to OCSEA, who tended to confide in people within their interpersonal networks, particularly friends, caregivers or siblings.

Based on the findings, Disrupting Harm outlined a series of evidence-based recommendations spanning legislation, law enforcement, justice processes, social services and public awareness to support the implementation of a comprehensive and sustained response to OCSEA, or an actionable blueprint to protect children. These recommendations call on the Government of Malaysia and its partners to act, educate and invest.

The crucial amendments passed draw directly from the recommendations of the Disrupting Harm report and go a long way to further strengthen the country’s legislative framework. These include:

  • Make sexual extortion and livestreaming of child sexual abuse distinct offenses, to enable better prosecution of these crimes.

  • Stronger victim-protection in the justice system, including child-friendly mechanisms during hearings to avoid re-traumatisation of children.

  • Allow extraction of evidence at the first point of contact, such as police stations and hospitals, to prevent children having to testify multiple times.

  • Better mechanisms to provide compensation for victims; under the new law, courts have the discretion to decide on compensation instead of having to rely on prosecutors to submit such claims on behalf of the victim (which was rarely done as per the study).

“Our congratulations to the Government of Malaysia for taking urgent action to prioritise online safety of children by passing the amendments to the Sexual Offences Against Children Act,” said Marija Manojlovic, Director, Safe Online Initiative at the End Violence Partnership. “Malaysia is a critical example of the importance of data to drive policy action. As our flagship project Disrupting Harm shows, we need high quality data, and more importantly, political will to use the data and insights to create an actionable blueprint towards creating a safe online world for children”.

Malaysia is a critical example of the importance of data to drive policy action. As our flagship project Disrupting Harm shows, we need high quality data, and more importantly, political will to use the data and insights to create an actionable blueprint towards creating a safe online world for childre
- Marija Manojlovic, Director, Safe Online

The legislative changes in Malaysia are the latest in a series of progressive legislations that work towards creating a safer online world for our children.

Explore the insights from Disrupting Harm.
Learn more about the action to keep children Safe Online.

 

Image: © UNICEF:UN0271852:Pirozzi

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A New Educational ‘game’ to Teach Children About Being #SafeOnline

A New Educational ‘game’ to Teach Children About Being #SafeOnline

May and Bay are exploring the vast online world – and learning to keep themselves safe from the threats to their safety.  And by helping these two digital characters stay safe in the online world, children can now learn more about and gain the skills needed for navigating the risks in the digital world. 

This is part of a new culturally informed educational ‘game’ that has been developed to help educate children and young people across Thailand and Cambodia on how to better keep themselves safe online. This simulation game lets children explore various online scenarios and is designed to spot the signs of online grooming and recognise the tactics that abusers and traffickers employ.

The project is led by the Centre for Child Protection at the University of Kent, aiming to prevent the online child sexual exploitation and abuse (OCSEA) of children in Thailand and Cambodia, and is launched following a funding grant from the End Violence Partnership’s Safe Online Initiative.

Educating and empowering children

Existing research combined with the local knowledge of partners ECPAT and A21, has identified that OCSEA is an ongoing problem in Thailand and Cambodia. Disrupting Harm – a large-scale research project that aims to better understand how digital technology facilitates the sexual exploitation and abuse of children – has revealed that In the past year alone, nine percent of 12–17-year-old internet users in Thailand were victims of grave instances of online child sexual abuse and exploitation (OCSEA). While recent work to reform legislation and develop policy responses to the crime is commendable, support is needed to improve awareness, knowledge and skills related to OCSEA within the child protection sector in Thailand. And research has found that Cambodia is one of the most significant destinations in South East Asia for travelling child sex offenders

Innovative and educative projects such as May and Bay are essential in creating awareness and equipping and empowering children themselves. They encourage children’s critical thinking and decision-making skills in an online environment and, importantly, empower children to understand how their actions can keep them safe.

The impact of Safe Online grantees

University of Kent was awarded a funding grant by End Violence’s Safe Online initiative in 2020. Safe Online grantees from around the world are working to make the Internet safe for children across the world at national, regional and national levels. They are working on creating solutions to tackle harm such as online child sexual abuse and exploitation. Over the past five years, the Safe Online portfolio has grown to reach US$ 68 million in investments in 80 projects working to end and prevent online CSEA in over 75 countries. Part of our work involves stimulating collaboration and knowledge-sharing across the world – and most recently, over 40 grantees convened alongside donors and industry representatives to align around a shared vision of a safe Internet for children everywhere. 

You can read more about Safe Online Initiativeimpact of our Safe Online grantees, watch interviews about their work, and learn about the Safe Online Network Forum

Action to #EndViolence

Despite the global challenges society faces today, positive change for children is taking place across countries and sectors – driven by governments, individuals and organisations fighting to ensure safe, secure and nurturing childhoods for girls and boys. As part of the Together to #ENDviolence campaign, we are placing a spotlight on these dedicated efforts that are delivering impact.

EXPLORE ACTION TO #ENDViolence FROM AROUND THE WORLD. 

Image: © UNICEF/UNI358629/Cristofoletti

See more stories from our family of grantees

Hear from our grantee: Age Check Certification Scheme Why Age Assurance is key to empowering children in the digital age

Hosted in collaboration with the British Standards Institution (BSI), this groundbreaking summit united over 700 global stakeholders to affirm a bold declaration: “Age Assurance Can Be Done!” With a focus on safeguarding children online, the summit produced a landmark Communique on Age Assurance, outlining principles like prioritising individual rights and data minimisation. Safe Online grantee, Age Assurance Certification Scheme, explains why age assurance is critical, the role of the first-ever Communique on Age Assurance and the way forward from this landmark Summit.

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​​A Major Victory for Children in Peru as Country Brings in New Law to Tackle Online CSEA

​​A Major Victory for Children in Peru as Country Brings in New Law to Tackle Online CSEA

In a huge step forward to tackle online child sexual exploitation and abuse (CSEA), Peru has passed a new law which makes it mandatory for Internet service providers to inform their users about parental filters. Such filters help better ensure safety by keeping out child sexual abuse material (CSAM) or other content that could lead to abuse of children. In addition to the new stipulation, it also broadens the definition of violence, including crimes that occur through technological means. The law is a major milestone for the country to better protect children against the many forms of violence online. 

Latest data from the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) reports a tenfold increase in child sexual abuse material online since the COVID-19 pandemic. Data from the End Violence funded multi-country Disrupting Harm project shows that up to 20% of 12–17-year-olds across 13 countries were subjected to online sexual exploitation and abuse in the past year alone. The law in Peru is the latest in a series of progressive legislations tackling online CSEA by governments across the world which are fast waking up to the danger of this rapidly growing global threat. 

The Bill in Peru was initially proposed in 2020 by Capital Humano y Social (CHS) ALTERNATIVO, a Safe Online grantee. It specified that internet service providers are required to inform their users about the need to install filters, free or paid, to block harmful content on home or mobile devices, conversation channels or any other form of network communication. Non-compliance by the companies operating the internet service constitutes a serious offense, sanctioned by OSIPTEL, a State Supervisory Agency in Telecommunications. Places where people can access public internet including internet booths, restaurants, hotels, airports, government facilities, etc. are required to place parental filters and must guarantee that their services have minimum records so that web pages, conversation channels or any other form of online communication, content and/or pornographic information cannot be accessed.

Safe Online has funded CHS Alternativo to raise awareness on online CSEA and strengthen response mechanisms to prevent it. The project was successful in strengthening capacities for responding to cases of online CSEA in almost 400 service providers including justice operators, teachers and administrative personnel. The organisation also conducted a study in seven regions where the project was being implemented, evaluating the services provided to victims of violence. This research was used to inform advocacy efforts towards developing national protocols and response strategies to address online violence.

“Peru is an important success story and points to the critical work that Safe Online grantees are doing across the world”, said Marija Manojlovic, Director, Safe Online Initiative at the End Violence Partnership. “As Safe Online, we leverage our investments to build strong foundations for a safe internet across the globe and strengthen systems at the national level by focusing on strong legislative and policy frameworks”, she added.

Peru is an important success story and points to the critical work that Safe Online grantees are doing across the world.
- Marija Manojlovic, Director, Safe Online

CHS Alternativo played a key role in advocating for the new law given the increase in internet access by children and adolescents in the country. According to the National Institute of Statistics and Information in Peru, internet access of children between 6 and 11 years in 2020 was 69.8%, an increase of 29% compared to 2019. The organisation also highlighted the lack of awareness on the issue of online CSEA as a key risk to children and young people.

“Thanks to the support of Safe Online, CHS Alternativo implemented a digital patrol experience to identify innovative recruitment strategies for the purpose of sexual exploitation on the Internet. Our study gave priority to digital environments where children and adolescents have the most interaction, that is, video game environments and social networks. In addition, CHS Alternativo conducted various surveys that revealed that around 890,000 children have faced situations of risk and sexual assault. As a result of the findings, Law No. 31664, was unanimously approved in the Congress of the Republic.Without the valuable contribution of Safe Online both studies would not have been possible”, said – Ricardo Valdés, CHS Alternativo Executive Director.

Peru has a number of progressive legislations to tackle online CSEA. This includes Act No. 27337, Code of Children and Adolescents; Act No. 30254, Promotion Law for the safe and responsible use of Information and Communication Technologies by Children and Adolescents and the Multi-Sectoral National Policy for Girls, Boys and Adolescents. The new law will strengthen the existing framework and help to create a safe digital future for children and young people in the country.

Learn more about the work of the Safe Online initiative. 

 

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© UNICEF/UN0405470/UNICEF Perú

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Our purpose in detail

We are here to ensure every child and young person grows in to the digital world feeling safe, and is protected from harm.

We support, champion, and invest in innovative partners from the public, private, and third sectors working towards the same objective.

We believe in equipping guardians and young people with the skills to understand and see danger themselves once accessing digital experiences without supervision.

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