Transparency notice: Research on online platforms to explore online safety

Published: 9 February 2023
Last updated: 16 March 2023

Part of Ofcom’s work is to carry out research in connection with our existing duties relating to UK-established video-sharing platforms and media literacy, and to prepare for our future duties under the Online Safety Bill. This will involve Ofcom or our external research agencies creating accounts on video sharing platforms, social media platforms and other platforms that enable user-to-user interaction (including Discord, Facebook, Instagram, Roblox, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitch, Twitter and YouTube).

This will involve, for example, signing up to a platform and going through a user journey to observe the platform’s sign-up process or creating accounts using a fictional persona, mimicking user behaviour, to understand the user experience. We anticipate this will be a useful source of information which we can bring together with other data to understand people’s experiences online.

In February/March 2023 we plan on running a small-scale research pilot using accounts set up by researchers on different platforms, with the assistance of a research agency. The accounts will use fictional personas based on young children (aged three – 12 years old) to help us understand what content these accounts observe on each platform and, in particular, whether they see potentially illegal and harmful content.

In some instances, running these accounts may include basic interaction (like following/friending) with other accounts on the platform where this is necessary. Our intention is to keep interactions with other platform users to a minimum. We have designed research protocols to minimise to the extent practicable the likelihood of researchers’ engagement with children’s private accounts, and to minimise researchers’ engagement with adult private accounts except accounts that have a large number of followers/connections (i.e. accounts which have above a certain number of followers/connections). Depending on the outcome of this pilot, we may carry out further research of a similar nature in future too.

We have updated the General Privacy Statement on our website.

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