Peers express support for UKSIC campaign highlighting need for independent appeals process in Online Safety Bill

11 May 2023 UK SIC

Former Victim’s Commissioner, Baroness Helen Newlove is one of a number of peers supporting a UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC) campaign which calls for an independent appeals process to be included in the Online Safety Bill.

Baroness Newlove, who is a Deputy Speaker in the House of Lords, will publicly back the need for better victim support when discussions on the bill continue amongst peers this week.

The UKSIC campaign, “Don’t Steal My Right To Appeal,” launched this week and challenges the bill’s omission of an essential obligation for millions of individuals to get harmful content removed – something that is already in place in other legislation being replaced by the Online Safety Bill.

The proposed amendment to the Online Safety Bill will be discussed by members of the House of Lords before a decision is made on whether or not it should be removed.

Speaking ahead of the debate, Baroness Newlove said: “We need an independent appeals process that is clear, succinct, thorough and gives the individual user the right for redress. It should be statutory law so that users are protected from legal yet harmful content especially as currently harmful content for adults is not in scope of the Bill.

“To me it’s just common sense to keep a process like this in. It’s about human lives and, in my opinion, if we don’t do it now then the opportunity will be gone, and we’ll risk the burn out of imperative organisations like the UK Safer Internet Centre and 5Rights Foundation – who are key players in supporting those in need.

“The government has a duty to ensure this process is kept available. I’ve fought for victims’ rights for many years and they need to be protected and assisted in navigating these potentially life-changing issues. I don’t understand why it would be removed.”

Another peer who has voiced her support for an independent appeals process being included in the bill is Baroness Beeban Kidron OBE.

The crossbench peer and Chair of the 5Rights Foundation, said: “The day a child or parent has a problem and realises that there is nowhere to turn, is the day that the Online Safety regime will have failed. Independent redress is a key plank of any regulatory regime. Ombudsmen and independent complaint are available across all sectors, and they are part of the tech regulation regimes in other countries. Disbanding existing complaint mechanisms whilst failing to create an independent road to redress is an eyewatering omission in the bill. I do wonder where government thinks those who are failed by the tech sector should go?”

Director of the UKSIC, David Wright 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, 87% of the content we reported was removed and this was of harmful content that had been reported by individuals 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 working towards being the safest place to be online.”

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