New online safety legislation needs to be made more robust MPs warn

Published:  Tue 25 Jan 2022

The IWF is calling for greater clarity on online harms as MPs warn new online safety legislation needs to be made more robust to help keep children safe online

A new report published yesterday (January 24,) by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Committee, warns that the Online Safety Bill, as it is currently drafted, lacks clear legal definitions and as a result, would fail to prevent the sharing of some of the most “insidious” images of child abuse and violence against women and girls.

The report: The Draft Online Safety Bill and the legal but harmful debate, calls for the legislation to be made clearer and more robust to make sure it avoids becoming a “missed opportunity”.

The IWF has effective processes in place to assist companies remove illegal content involving child sexual abuse content from the internet.

The IWF says any new legislation must be clear and effective “from day one” to make sure these effective safeguards are maintained.

Responding to the report, Susie Hargreaves OBE, Chief Executive of the IWF, said: “Now more than ever, child safety must be at the fore. This Bill is a once-in-a-generation chance which must not be allowed to slip away.

“In 2021, the IWF took action against a record-breaking 253,000 reports, equating to millions and millions of images and videos of child sexual abuse which we have worked to have removed from the internet.

“The Joint Committee has already recognised our unparalleled expertise in tackling this material – acknowledging how the Bill will be enhanced by our inclusion as a co-designated body.

“This report by the DCMS Select Committee further underlines our expertise in tackling CSE/A online by calling for greater clarity in the definition of illegal content based on the oral and written evidence I gave to the Committee.

“Now we need the Government to give more details of how they expect regulation to be shared by Ofcom and groups like the IWF. This legislation needs to be effective from day one. If it is not, it is vulnerable children who will suffer.

“We stand ready to support Ofcom and the Government to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.”

The IWF is the UK organisation responsible for finding and removing images and videos of children suffering sexual abuse from the internet.

Chair of the DCMS Committee Julian Knight MP said: “In its current form what should be world-leading, landmark legislation instead represents a missed opportunity.

“The Online Safety Bill neither protects freedom of expression nor is it clear nor robust enough to tackle illegal and harmful online content.

“Urgency is required to ensure that some of the most pernicious forms of child sexual abuse do not evade detection because of a failure in the online safety law.

“These are matters of important public debate to which we will return as the Bill makes its way through Parliament.”

Read the full report here.

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