Calls for greater clarity as new Online Safety Bill is introduced in the Commons

Published:  Thu 17 Mar 2022

The IWF welcomed the new Bill, but said more detail is needed on how it will work with Ofcom and the National Crime Agency (NCA) to avoid children becoming “collateral damage” to the growing power of the internet.

Today (March 17), the Government introduced its long-awaited Online Safety Bill to Parliament. The Bill is intended to help protect people, particularly children, online.

Among the new measures included in the Bill are tougher and quicker criminal sanctions for tech bosses who are deemed to have failed to protect users from harmful material.

Another new requirement will mean companies must report child sexual exploitation and abuse content they detect on their platforms to the NCA.

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) is the UK-based body responsible for finding, removing, and preventing online images and videos of child sexual abuse.

Andrew Puddephatt OBE, Independent Chair of the Internet Watch Foundation, said: “This Bill is a once in a generation chance to make sure children are not collateral damage to the growing power of the internet. But there still needs to be greater clarity on the timetable and on how the IWF is expected to work with the NCA and Ofcom.

“Our expertise in identifying, removing, and preventing child sexual abuse material online is second to none. In total last year, our analysts investigated a record 361,000 reports, including tip offs from the public, of suspected criminal material. This is more than we dealt with in the entire first 15 years of our existence.

“The IWF has been proud to work with the UK Home Office to draft the Interim Code of Practice on Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation.

“We have long campaigned for this legislation to be effective from day one, so we are pleased to see the duties on online platforms will be enforced from the day the CSEA Code of Practice comes into effect.”

Speaking ahead of the Bill’s publication, Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said: “The internet has transformed our lives for the better. It’s connected us and empowered us. But on the other side, tech firms haven’t been held to account when harm, abuse and criminal behaviour have run riot on their platforms. Instead they have been left to mark their own homework.

“We don't give it a second’s thought when we buckle our seat belts to protect ourselves when driving. Given all the risks online, it's only sensible we ensure similar basic protections for the digital age. If we fail to act, we risk sacrificing the wellbeing and innocence of countless generations of children to the power of unchecked algorithms. 

“Since taking on the job I have listened to people in politics, wider society and industry and strengthened the Bill, so that we can achieve our central aim: to make the UK the safest place to go online.”

 

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