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Google allows children to request removal of their photos from its search results

Of late, tech giants like Google have been trying to make their platforms more appropriate for kids following intense criticism.

In yet another global development on children-related online content regulation, Google has launched a new policy to restrict photos of minors in its search results. Children or their parents or guardians can request the removal of a minor’s photos from Google’s search results, the company announced in a blog post. Google will further verify the requests and take them down if it’s satisfied that the request meets their criteria for such removal.

However, it will make exceptions in cases based on public interest and newsworthiness, it said, and would currently only remove image URLs and not Web URLs or web pages. The first step to making such a request starts with filling out a form.

The regulation of children’s rights, data, and activity online has been a sensitive area of content moderation. Under India’s 2019 draft version of the Personal Data Protection Bill, data fiduciaries (entities responsible for storing and processing personal data) cannot engage in profiling, tracking, behavioural monitoring, or targeted advertising directed at children.

Other measures supposed to protect kids on platforms

YouTube: On October 25, the video platform announced that monetisation of content targeting kids will depend on the quality of the content. Under this, a channel with a strong focus on low-quality ‘Made for Kids’ content may be suspended from the YouTube Partner Programme and an individual video found to violate this might see fewer or no ads. Low quality videos are categorised as those that are commercialised, have children’s characters in objectionable situations, encourage bad behaviour, etc.

TikTok: In January, TikTok announced changes to its app to better protect underage users, by limiting their public visibility and also giving users more control over who can see and comment on their videos. The short-video app said it will set the accounts of users aged between 13 and 15 years to “private” by default. Users in this age group will also choose to either disallow comments on their videos or only let their Friends comment; the “everyone” option will be removed, the company said.

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Facebook: Last month, Facebook announced that it was suspending work on Instagram Kids, its version of the photo-sharing app for those under 13. Leaked internal documents first accessed by the Wall Street Journal, showed that the main app harmed the mental health of teenagers.

Meanwhile, India’s child rights body has been busy

September 2020: The National Commission for Protection of Child Rights filed a complaint against journalist Mohammed Zubair. The latter had tweeted a blurred photo of a minor girl during an online spat he was having with her grandfather. While Twitter refused to remove the tweet, NCPCR moved the Delhi High Court seeking action against Twitter’s Jack Dorsey and former India MD Manish Maheshwari, along with Zubair.

November 2020: The NCPCR reportedly summoned CBSE officials for collaborating with social media platforms to conduct classes saying that encouraging children to use social media is not right as they are not safe mediums.

June 2021: The NCPCR wrote to Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, and Telegram over illegal adoption posts on their platforms for children who have been orphaned by the COVID-19 pandemic. In the same month, the NCPCR registered a case with the Delhi Police’s Cyber Cell against Twitter Inc for allegedly having child pornographic and sexual abuse content on their platform.

August 2021: The NCPCR urged Twitter and Instagram to take down opposition leader Rahul Gandhi’s tweet and post containing pictures of him with the parents of an alleged minor rape victim.  Interestingly, an RTI response to MediaNama revealed that the NCPCR has sent 7 content takedown requests in the 4 months after the IT rules came into effect. These requests were made to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

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Written By

I cover health technology for MediaNama, among other things. Reach me at anushka@medianama.com

MediaNama’s mission is to help build a digital ecosystem which is open, fair, global and competitive.

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