The UK Safer Internet Centre has welcomed the Government’s commitment to tackling online harms and making the UK the safest place in the world to go online.

15 Dec 2020 Andy Robinson

Today (December 15) the Government has published its full response to the Online Harms White Paper consultation.

The response sets out how a proposed legal duty of care on online companies will work in practice and gives them new responsibilities towards their users. 

Social media sites, websites, apps and other services which host user-generated content or allow people to talk to others online will need to remove and limit the spread of illegal content such as child sexual abuse, terrorist material and suicide content. 

Tech platforms will need to do far more to protect children from being exposed to harmful content or activity such as grooming, bullying and pornography.

UK SIC and SWGfL Director David Wright, said: “For the past decade we have been at the forefront of the UK’s response to this agenda. As a partnership we operate hotlines and helplines that deal with incidents of child sexual abuse, revenge porn, and the reporting of legal but harmful content.

“We help teachers, social workers, and other professionals across the UK working directly with the nation’s six million children.

“In our work, we have been horrified to witness the scale and complexity of online harms grow in the past decade, and particularly during the current Covid-19 pandemic which has exacerbated the situation.

“This has been our busiest year ever, with calls to the revenge porn helpline more than doubling this year.

“The legislation will be a welcome and important step in helping to address some key challenges around online harms. However, it won’t remove online risk, and there is more, and other, work needed around this, notably around education and awareness, and helping people to manage risk.

“Initiatives like Safer Internet Day are so crucial. Last year the day reached 49% of children and 26% of parents in the UK. It is a vital touchpoint in the lives of the nation’s children about online safety.

“The UK Government is still yet to confirm that it will play its part in securing the future of these services after the funding the Centre currently receives from the EU ends. To be a true world leader in tackling online harms, it is time they addressed this.”

Ofcom has also been confirmed as the regulator with the power to fine companies failing in their duty of care up to £18 million or ten per cent of annual global turnover, whichever is higher.

It will have the power to block non-compliant services from being accessed in the UK.

Mr Wright added: ““The confirmation that Ofcom will be the regulator is encouraging together with the powers that they will assume. 

“In line with others, for example statutory agencies, those in senior roles should be accountable for their actions if this fails to prevent harm to their users and this should extend to criminal proceedings.  Everyone should benefit from technology, free from harm.”

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