The 3 Big Issues Brands Need to Think About on Safer Internet Day.

February 7 is Safer Internet Day – a global event aimed at promoting “safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.”
Helping ensure the internet is a safe place for brands and their customers is one of our founding principles as an agency. While things have a come a long way since we started in 2002, how we use technology is constantly evolving and brands need to be aware of the changing landscape when it comes to digital safety.
The recent Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference in Washington highlighted three areas (among many) brands and platforms need to be mindful of.

Collecting personal data? You need a robust plan to keep it safe.  

Recent years have seen an uptick in the creation of children’s toys which connect to an online account, where registration is required and therefore personally identifiable information is collected. But what are the implications of smart and connected toys on a policy level as well as in day-to-day household use?
Toy creators and their parent companies have lots to consider to ensure both user privacy and safety. For example:
What happens when toy companies stop supporting/patching/updating products? How will consumers be made aware?
What happens to any collected data when the toys are online?
If your company plans to create ‘connected’ items of any kind – be they toys, household items, or personal gadgets (think: fitbit!) – we can help you navigate  through potential issues by advising on risk management.

Online harassment is highly nuanced – what is your brand’s take on it?

Understanding your audience and their concerns over online safety should help shape your organisation’s communication style, tone of voice, and future Social Media strategies.
Last year, The Data & Society Research Institutions looked at how online abuse affected different segments of digital users between the ages of 15 and 29 years old. Their paper Online Harassment, Digital Abuse and Cyberstalking in America found that

  • The types and perceptions of each differ mainly according to the sex of the individual:
    • Men:  More likely to experience harassment meant to embarrass or hurt their ego, DDoS (technical) attacks, and violent threats to their person.
    • Women: The harassment has a longer life-span. Violent threats are sexual in nature, cyber-stalking and a divulgence of personal information is much more prevalent.
  • By far, the LGBTQ community receives the worst kind of online abuse, and their online harassment is much more intense.
  • The study also found there are differences in perception of online harassment.  What some individuals perceive as harassment may not be defined as such by others.
  • Almost all participants admitted to some form of self-censoring,  for fear of an online attack – Anyone reading this done the same?

Understanding these key findings will help will help focus your brand vision, and keep your support team on top of potential business and community member attacks. A clear position on the above will also help aligning your brand tone of voice, user guidelines and customer support for your audience.

Online extremism is part of our world, whether we want it or not

Terrorist and extremist groups are now using social media the same way that Fortune 500 companies do – they are selling an idea. An idea that when openly and publicly shared with anyone questioning the establishment can more easily and readily recruit.
How brands and social media platforms address this issue will have huge effects on things like data sharing, brand transparency and user privacy.
The future will see stronger arguments to research behaviour patterns of potential recruits; especially on open-market business sites and social media platforms. Kevin Bankston (Open Technology Institute) strongly supports the idea of having more companies proactively and openly sharing their moderated data with the proper authorities and research groups.
Brands should take note of Mr.  Bankston’s closing statement at the Family Online Safety Institute’s annual conference: “Free speech advocates need to be in the room with companies, to help navigate their moderation – balancing free speech against extremist content.”
In the future companies may be required to share more users’ data with law enforcement and/or research groups. This may be in their best interests, as they can study and potentially stop terrorist recruitment and extremist activity happening within business communities. Some companies are already doing this voluntarily which helps develop relationships, and show good faith.
The very definition of Internet safety is quickly evolving. As more and more of our gadgets are connected, as more and more of our communications go via online communities and social networks, the space, its risks and its governing policies are meant to evolve. The Social Element will continue to watch this space to to ensure our clients understand best how they can protect their users and their brand reputations.
This has been a mere snapshot of FOSI’s 2016 US conference. We will continue to monitor future Digital Safety initiatives, policies and updates as they develop this year. Remember -we love talking digital safety! To ensure your company keeps current and informed, get in touch with us here.

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