Online safety rules have ‘blind spot’ to radicalisation of children, terror watchdog warns

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The risk of children being radicalised by extremism on social media is “a blind spot” in new safety rules being drawn up to tackle toxic content online, the government’s terror watchdog warned on Wednesday.

Jonathan Hall KC said that proposals by the media regulator Ofcom – which has been given the duty of protecting the public from “illegal harms” under the Online Safety Act – failed to treat young people as being at particular danger of being lured into terrorism online.

He said this was despite a succession of police warnings about the growing number of teenagers being radicalised online and arrested for terror offences and that the new rules needed to be beefed up to ensure that tech giants including Tik Tok, Facebook, X and Google were required to act against extremist content.

Mr Hall, the independent reviewer of terrorism legislation, added that if Ofcom failed to strengthen its rules it would “arguably result in a breach” of its own legal duties and that it should instead “acknowledge youth as a factor” in terrorist risk and ensure “that higher protection from terrorism content is required .. for children than for adults”.

“The internet is a major source of radicalisation and self-radicalisation of children, resulting in a well-documented increase in children being investigated and arrested for terrorism offences,” Mr Hall wrote in a submission to a consultation by the regulator on its planned new code of conduct on protecting the public from illegal content online.

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