Don’t steal my right to appeal – Online Safety Bill set to not include existing protections

09 May 2023 UK SIC

The Online Safety Bill is set to remove an essential obligation which is currently supporting millions of individuals to get harmful content removed from the internet. The debate which is taking place in the House of Lords will decide whether individuals will have better support to appeal decisions about whether harmful online content should remain online or not. Find out what is happening below and share your support on social media to ensure this essential safeguard is included within the Online Safety Bill.

Removing harmful online content

The UK Safer Internet Centre delivers a number of support services where members of the public are able to report harmful material online. One of these is Report Harmful Content which acts as a national reporting centre to protect individuals from legal but harmful content.

Report Harmful Content acts as an independent appeals process which provides individuals with a separate avenue to report and get content removed. If something has remained online after being reported direct to an online platform, users currently have a right to appeal this decision.

This process allows people to feel they have somewhere else to go when content they have reported, remains online – it is a protection that provides essential support when someone is experiencing devastating online harm. As an example, through 2021 -2022 alone, Report Harmful Content removed 87% of content that had already been reported direct to an online platform with no action. Without this process, content would remain online.

Taking essential support away

We are aware that the government is now looking to remove an essential safeguard (that already exists in current legislation) from the Online Safety Bill. If this is not included, it will be more difficult for users to get online content removed, and indeed, appeal decisions made by online platforms.

We have seen through our own service how essential it is that individuals are given a more supportive process to appeal decisions about online content, especially when it is causing significant harm. Without this key safeguard in place, users in the UK will find themselves more exposed to online content that may be abusive, violent, threatening or upsetting.

We believe that without this essential obligation in the Online Safety Bill, the Government will not be able to achieve its aim of making the UK the safest place to be online.

David Wright (Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre) said:

The UK currently supports individuals with taking online concerns further through an independent appeals process. It is now time to ask, why is this process not being included within the Online Safety Bill? Thousands of people will report concerns direct to online platforms, and from what we have seen through our own services, a large portion of content will remain online. Through 2021 – 2022, we removed 87% of harmful content that had been reported and not been taken down.

We need to give people better support; we can’t just rely on a single reporting process that is solely controlled by the platform; it is just not enough. This safeguard needs to be included within the Online Safety Bill to ensure that the UK is definitely working towards being the safest place to be online.

Kathryn Tremlett (Report Harmful Content Manager) said:

Independent appeals continue to protect individuals against a multitude of harm in all areas of life so it is deeply worrying to see it disregarded online without consideration for what damaging implications this will ultimately bring.

This giant step backwards plants considerable doubt and concern for the future whilst highlighting alarming gaps within the current Online Safety Bill. We hope the obligation for platforms in scope to provide independent appeals will be strengthened with immediate effect. The Bill should first and foremost prioritise the safety of individuals – and currently, it does not.

We are running a campaign to ensure that this obligation is included in the Online Safety Bill after the current debates that are taking place within the House of Lords. Throughout this campaign we want to make sure that people who use the internet don’t lose their right to appeal.

To further inform your network about this potential change to the Bill, the obligation, and the importance of its inclusion, please share the above social media post.

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