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Out-Law News 2 min. read

Zuckerberg vows future Facebook age limit fight

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg will challenge a US law that prevents children under the age of 13 using the site, according to media reports.

It is worth challenging the law because of the educational benefits children could gain from using Facebook, Zuckerberg told a recent summit on innovation in schools, according to the BBC.

"That will be a fight we take on at some point," Zuckerberg said, according to the BBC's report.

"My philosophy is that for education you need to start at a really, really young age. Because of the [legal] restrictions we haven't even begun this learning process. If they're lifted then we'd start to learn what works," Zuckerberg said, according to the BBC.

The Children's Online Privacy Protection Act in the US precludes Facebook from allowing users to create accounts if they are under the age of 13. There is no UK law that prevents under 13s using the site, but the company's terms of service do prohibit pre-teen users.

Despite this, recent research has suggested that millions of Facebook's users are under 13. One report from Consumer Reports in the US suggested 7.5 million under-age users lied about their age in order to register with the site.

Last year the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) reported that complaints about bullying and grooming on Facebook had increased by a factor of four times in the preceding year.

CEOP told OUT-LAW that social networking sites have a responsibility to make parents aware of the risks children face online.

Facebook's terms of service state "you will not use Facebook if you are under 13" whilst its Family Safety Centre advises users to report profiles belonging to children under age. Facebook said that it was difficult to implement age restrictions on its service, according to the Daily Telegraph.

"Facebook is currently designed for two age groups, 13-18 year olds and 18 and up. We provide extensive safety and privacy controls based on the age provided," a Facebook spokesman said, according to a report in the Daily Telegraph.

"However, recent reports have highlighted just how difficult it is to implement age restrictions on the Internet and that there is no single solution to ensuring younger children don’t circumvent a system or lie about their age. We agree with safety experts that communication between parents or guardians and kids about their use of the Internet is vital,” the spokesman said according to the paper.

In Europe a survey of 25,000 young people found that 38% of children aged between nine and 12 have a social network profile. The survey was commissioned by the European Commission and was published in April. The survey coincided with the Commission's publication of self-regulatory guidance for social networking sites. Companies that volunteer to abide by the guideline principles meet EU safety standards for the protection of minors.

“Growing numbers of children are on social networking sites but many are not taking all necessary steps to protect themselves online. These children are placing themselves in harm's way, vulnerable to stalkers and groomers," Neelie Kroes, European Commission, said at the time.

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