One example of a parental control software, crippled by Big Tech, is Norton Family. Its limitations include:
“Video Supervision requires a browser extension on Windows and the in-app Norton Browser on iOS and Android. It monitors videos viewed on YouTube.com (but not YouTube videos embedded in other websites or blogs) and on Hulu.com (but only on Windows). It does not work with the YouTube or Hulu apps.”
These limitations are caused by the conduct of Google and/or Apple.
In the past, even as recently as 2010, consumer applications used standard internet protocols—HTTP(S) for the web, SMTP, POP3, IMAP for email, and so on. However, social media platforms have changed that by building their own proprietary protocols that are not published, change rapidly, and companies can even attempt to legally forbid others’ direct use or study of them. Most social media services are consumed via smartphone apps, which create another challenge. Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are necessary for the development of parental controls for social media platforms. The platforms control their APIs and require developers to accept additional terms to get access to the APIs. In these terms, the companies reserve for themselves the “right” to change the terms, discontinue the API, or terminate any developers access at will. That practically defeats the ability to develop parental controls using these APIs. Also, some functionality needed to develop parental controls is missing from the official APIs.
Social media platforms also demand that developers, both individuals and companies, accept their putative end user agreements and agree to platforms’ content guidelines. That assures that only those who hold their values (which are hostile to parenting) can develop parental controls compatible with their systems, all but completely defeating the intent of subsection 230(d).
This also shows of the enormous power that Big Tech platforms have not only over their users, but over the developers, too. APIs are nothing new. All large software and hardware companies provide developers with APIs for their products. Everybody developing software for Microsoft Windows in the ’90s used Microsoft’s APIs. However, Microsoft could not control what the developers did with its APIs or even to distinguish between developers. Once a person obtained an SDK implementing an API from Microsoft, it can develop and sell any software for Windows, and Microsoft was not able to do anything about it. The worst it could do would be to discontinue the API and to break compatibility in future versions of Windows. That would break all their applications using that API, give Microsoft negative press, and discourage people from upgrading to the new version; thus, Microsoft was deterred from doing so.
Today, each Big Tech company assign an ID to each developer and consumer, and has a continuous control of interaction of them and their applications with the company’s services, and can disable or sabotage any consumer, developer, and third party application at will.
Children and adolescents (4-18) spent, on average, more than four hours on the top social media platforms. Most of the time was spent on TikTok (almost two hours per day) and Snapchat (one and a half hours per day). It does not include YouTube, but includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit.
Rideout, V., Peebles, A., Mann, S., & Robb, M. B. (2022). Common Sense census: Media use by tweens and teens, 2021.
The entertainment screen time, excluding TV sets & console games, 2021:
Tweens (8-12): 3 hours and 42 minutes, per Table A
Teens (13-18): 6 hours and 34 minutes, per Table B
Most used services in 2022, reconciling both sources: YouTube, TikTok, Snapchat, Facebook/Instagram. There was a sharp increase in the Snapchat usage in 2022, which is not counted here.