MCI Response to PQ on Age Verification for Joining Social Media Platforms
Parliament Sitting on 5 October 2022
QUESTION FOR ORAL ANSWER
18. Mr Melvin Yong Yik Chye: To ask the Minister for Communications and Information (a) whether the Ministry is considering a minimum age limit for children to join social media platforms, to mitigate the potential harm that social media sites can cause on young children; and (b) whether the Ministry has studied any overseas jurisdictions that have successfully implemented age verification for the use of social media platforms.
Currently, most major social media services require users to be at least 13 years old to register for an account. Users have to declare their birth date at the point of registration.
As false declarations may be made, some social media services have made efforts to develop technologies, including a combination of Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning technology and facial recognition algorithms, for proactive detection and removal of underage accounts, or acting on user reports against such accounts by suspending them.
Age verification is technically difficult, and the technology continues to evolve. It also involves concerns over data protection, especially regarding children’s data. Balancing data protection concerns with effective and reliable age verification methods is challenging, and global standards have not been set.
The Ministry of Communications and Information has frequent engagements with our international counterparts on issues related to online safety, especially for young users. We will be introducing measures, including a proposed Code of Practice for Online Safety. The Code will require social media services with significant reach or impact to put in place systems and processes to mitigate exposure to harmful content for Singapore end-users, with additional safeguards for young users. We will continue to monitor global developments as well as consult extensively, including on the issue of age verification, as we consider additional measures where viable and appropriate.
We also encourage parents to take an active role in engaging and guiding their children on the appropriate age to use social media. Parents may tap on useful resources such as those produced by the Media Literacy Council that promote safe and responsible online behaviour, including a “Social Media Guide: What is the right age for my child?” which provides tips for parents on when to let their child use social media platforms.