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Online Safety Bill changes not enough says Christian charity

by Sophie Drew

Changes have been made to the Online Safety Bill that would see social media bosses face prison if they flout the new legislation.

It is a change the Prime Minister did not initially support, but conceded to rebels within the Conservative party who had called for tougher measures.

The new plans would see the UK come one step closer towards making the internet a safe place for young people by preventing access to content that promotes suicide, eating disorders and self-harm. 

The change – which was announced by culture secretary Michelle Donelan – was backed by Priti Patel and Sir Iain Duncan Smith, amongst others. 

When announcing the change, Donelan said: “While this amendment will not affect those who have acted in good faith to comply in a proportionate way, it gives the act additional teeth to deliver change and ensure that people are held to account if they fail to properly protect children.”

Christian charity CARE, which has been campaigning on the issue for a number of years, welcomed the amendment but said further action still needs to be taken.

Tim Cairns, CARE’s policy lead on online safety, commented: “Holding executives of online content providers personally liable for what is published on their platforms will make it more likely that obligations placed on companies will be taken seriously. We would, however, like to see the government go further to protect children from the specific harms caused by pornography.

“In terms of pornographic content, we believe children should be afforded the same protections in the online world as they are offline. 

“At present, the bill does not bring this parity. It does not recognise the acute harms to children caused by unfettered access to sexual content – content that is illegal for them to access in shops or cinemas – and act to curb such access.” 

Despite CARE calling for further changes, others believe the new amendments already go too far. 

Former culture secretary Sir Jeremy Wright says the language used in the draft is too broad, and leaves room for misunderstanding. He also claims that the amendment will create a “difficulty of prosecuting successfully the sort of offences that we may create".

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