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As the Online Safety Bill is put on hold, influencers and MPs react

Posted by Abby Oldroyd in Comment

1 month ago

The Online Safety Bill has been dropped from the parliamentary schedule next week, according to a Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) official, and now delayed until the Autumn.

It’s a landmark piece of legislation which aims to protect people on the internet by removing hate speech, preventing scammers and fining tech giants like Twitter and Facebook if they fail to comply with new rules.

The bill, which has been in its final stages, has been put on pause due to time pressures and to make space for a confidence vote in the Government, which will take place on Monday.

Many have raised concerns over the delay, and the impact it could have on children and young influencers. Shadow culture minister Alex Davies-Jones described it as “an absolutely devastating blow and another example of the Tories prioritising their own ideals over people’s safety online.”

In an interview with The Telegraph, Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC, said, “the Online Safety Bill is a crucial piece of legislation that is fundamentally about protecting children from harm and abuse that is taking place on an industrial scale on social media.”

Sara McCorquodale, CEO and founder of CORQ, criticised the pandemic for intensifying influencer trolling and online abuse, which has led to a toxic culture within many influencers’ audiences choosing to police their content rather than enjoy it. As a result, many influencers have spoken out about their experiences with trolling and online abuse in support of the Bill.

In May, TV personalities Georgia KousoulouPriya Gopaldas and Amy Hart met with the DCMS to shed light on the issue.  Gopaldas discussed the detrimental effects negative comments have on both her physical and mental health, while Kousoulous hopes the Bill will help parents who are raising their children in the digital age. Hart shared she had suffered online abuse, including death threats, but when she reported the incident to social media networks she was told the messages did not breach community guidelines.

The former Love Islander has criticised the government’s decision to delay the Bill, highlighting urgent issues like cyberflashing, suicidal ideology being sent to children’s accounts and anonymous death threats being put on hold as a result.

Award-winning blogger Emma Sheldon called for better regulations and protection for online activity and told the DCMS committee in July there was “a dark space on the internet,” and suggested social media platforms should require some form of personal information to deter abusers and assist the police.

Emily ClarksonAmber Rose Gill and Sharron Gaffka have also supported online safety laws, and the UK Government’s youth mental health ambassador, Dr Alex George, has urged social media firms to help prevent online abuse which affects people “physically as well as psychologically.”

Enforcing better protections for users and influencers online has never been so urgently needed, and this delay amid an imploding Conservative cabinet could have a devastating impact on the safety of social media platforms.

By Abby Oldroyd, staff writer at CORQ. Picture credit: Priya Gopaldas via Instagram