This morning I read the judgement in the case of A, a young adult male who had a range of learning and other difficulties. His local authority was very involved in making arrangements for A’s care and it had come to their attention that, for example, he sent highly inappropriate images of himself to social media sites, but there were also other issues. They wanted to know if, in his own interests, restrictions could be applied to his use of the internet. The Court decided they could. Here are some of the the Judge’s findings
“(The Court’s adviser) was of the view that A had only a partial understanding that information and images (including videos) which he shared on the internet or through social media could be shared more widely, including with people he didn’t know. He had a “limited” understanding of privacy settings; he had only a partial understanding that people may be upset or offended by information shared online but was not able to ‘use or weigh’ that information.
He had a “poor” understanding of the risks which people might pose on line, and could not understand that people may disguise their identity to take advantage of him (“this was lacking, it really was”: “I asked [A] if he thought that a person who was nice on Facebook might not be a good person, after some thought he said ‘yes’. I asked him why a bad person might appear to be nice on Facebook and he said “I don’t know”). ….. A is very, very, trusting. He is therefore easy to manipulate on the internet… He has no understanding of ulterior motives”. …. While A understood that if he looked at or shared extremely rude or offensive images, messages or videos on line he may get into trouble with the police, he felt he was blameless…… he was not able to ‘use or weigh’ the information that he may in fact be committing an offence in relation to this.”
It seems the ability to “use or weigh” information which might impact on one’s safety, well being or the legality of one’s actions was the telling point.
I am not going to generalise from here to the position of other vulnerable groups, e.g. children, but the logic of the Judge’s reasoning seems to point in a certain direction.
UKCCIS guidance papers get a mention
The judge also said
“In considering online ‘risk’ and its relevance for those who may lack capacity, I was referred (per the submissions of the Official Solicitor) to the descriptions of online risk set out in the UK Council for Child Internet Safety’s Guidance ‘Child Safety Online: A Practical Guide for Providers of Social Media and Interactive Services’. This guide divides the risk into three areas:
i) Content risk : children receiving mass-distributed content. This may expose them to age-inappropriate material such as pornography, extreme violence, or content involving hate speech and radicalisation.
ii) Conduct risk : children participating in an interactive situation. This includes bullying, sexting, harassing, being aggressive or stalking; or promoting harmful behaviour such as self-harm, suicide, pro-anorexia, bulimia, illegal drug use or imitating dangerous behaviour. A child’s own conduct online can also make them vulnerable – for example, by over-sharing their personal information or by harassing or bullying themselves;
iii) Contact risk : children being victims of interactive situations. This includes being bullied, harassed or stalked; meeting strangers; threats to privacy, identity and reputation (for example, through embarrassing photos shared without permission, a house location being identified, someone impersonating a user, users sharing information with strangers); and violence, threats and abuse directly aimed at individual users and/or groups of users.
I am sure it must have happened before but that is the first time I have ever seen that UKCCIS document referred to in official proceedings. It’s good to know it is being put to good use somewhere.