Pressure to incorporate independent appeals process in Online Safety Bill builds as UKSIC steps up campaign.

30 May 2023 UK SIC

Pressure is continuing to grow on the UK government to include an independent appeals process in the Online Safety Bill.

Following a House of Lords debate on Tuesday 16 May, the UK Safer Internet Centre (UKSIC) has stepped up its “Don’t Steal My Right to Appeal” campaign for better victim protection in the Bill by sharing a letter with Peers and MPs.

The letter, which looks to gain further support for the process to be incorporated into new legislation, comes after a disappointing government response during the debate.

Responding to the discussions, UKSIC Director David Wright said: “At the current juncture, we are concerned by the government’s inaction on this matter, and we are disappointed in some of the responses given by their Lord’s representative, Viscount Camrose, to pertinent questions from Peers during this debate.

“There seemed to be a distinct lack of clarity in his answers relating to where individuals would be able to complain should they be seeking redress on a specific matter – given the current VSP regulations, including an individual’s right to impartial dispute resolution, are going to be superseded and repealed as a result of the incoming bill.

“We have the utmost respect for Viscount Camrose but it’s imperative we reach a positive solution on this matter, or, as Baroness Newlove said, we risk putting human lives at risk.”

Speaking on the importance of an independent appeals process and the experience of the UKSIC in this field, Wright said: “Our Report Harmful Content service acts as a national reporting centre to protect individuals from legal but harmful content. In practice, it’s an independent appeals process which provides individuals with a separate avenue to 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 affords people somewhere else to go when content they have reported, remains online – it is a protection that provides essential support when someone is experiencing online harm. As an example, through 2021-2022 alone, of the reports that Report Harmful Content made, 87% resulted in content being removed and let’s not forget, this was of content that had already been reported direct to an online platform with no action.

“We believe an individual’s right to independently appeal decisions about harmful online content should be included in the Online Safety Bill. The Bill in its current form does not meet the UK’s aim of making the UK the safest place to be online.

“We welcome the government’s openness for further discussion, and we will make ourselves and our decades of expertise and data available to them to further enforce the need for people to be given this opportunity for redress. This cannot be kicked down the line for a future government to deal with – this must happen now.”

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