Comments from the EADT regarding the draft law on minors in the digital environment: We need more effective protection

draft law on minors

The complexity of the digital environment and the protection of minors within it is a multifaceted challenge. There is no single measure that can completely solve this problem.

In this sense, the preliminary draft of the Organic Law for the protection of minors in the digital environment, presented by the Spanish government, offers real progress. But it also creates significant concerns.

Socially and politically, we must keep in mind that the digital services and products used by minors are designed with complex income models that collect and profile their data for monetization and commercialisation, in open violation of Article 32 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which prohibits the exploitation of children.

We are talking about an environment full of addictive algorithms, compelling designs and murky standards, whose aim is to keep children looking at screens for as long as possible to collect and analyse their data. This practice not only violates their privacy but also undermines their well-being, favouring the interests of the industry at the expense of children.

Along these same lines, although the draft bill includes some positive measures, such as parental control by default and raising the age of consent to 16 years of age, it does not adequately address the root of the problem and more effective measures are needed to protect minors.

The key comments from the European Association for Digital Transition

We ask the government to consider General comment No. 25 from the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child of 1989, ratified by Spain, and the implementation of age verification systems, smart labelling and measures to ensure transparency and accountability in the use of algorithms, including independent audits and parental controls by default on mobile devices.

The persuasive and manipulative practices of the big tech companies, which create addiction in minors, must be faced with more determination. These practices constitute a form of psychic and digital violence, as established in Organic Law 8/2021, of 4 June, on the comprehensive protection of children and adolescents from violence (LOPIVI, in its Spanish acronym). Thus, from our perspective, it is essential that the preliminary draft be developed as an extension of the LOPIVI, including measures that guarantee a safe and healthy digital environment for minors.

We propose that the burden of proof be inverted, meaning it would be the companies who must demonstrate the legality and safety of their practices.

Finally, it would be very beneficial for a provision to be included in the Code of Civil Procedure to legitimise the Public Administrations responsible for the protection of children and adolescents to exercise the rights of underage users or consumers, developing what has already been established in Article 11 of the above Code.

Finally, while we welcome regulatory developments, we want to stress the need for more comprehensive and effective regulation that protects minors from the harmful practices of the big tech companies. That is the bottom line of our comments on the draft law.