Digital minister Margot James announced the government's plans for new laws regarding online bullying, forcing social media giants to take responsibility for the welfare of young and vulnerable people online.
During a conference for Safer Internet Day, Miss James said: "Online safety is a top priority for the Government and we want to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online. We will soon be publishing an Online Harms White Paper which will set out clear expectations for companies to help keep their users, particularly children, safe online. Internet companies have always enjoyed legal protection from liability for user generated content. This laissez faire environment has led some companies to pursue growth and profitability with little regard for the security and interests of their users.
"There is far too much bullying, abuse, misinformation and manipulation online as well as serious and organised crime online. For too long the response from many of the large platforms has fallen short. There have been no fewer than fifteen voluntary codes of practice agreed with platforms since 2008. Where we are now is an absolute indictment of a system that has relied far too little on the rule of law.
"The White Paper, which DCMS are producing with the Home Office, will be followed by a consultation over the summer and will set out new legislative measures laws to ensure that the platforms remove illegal content, and prioritise the protection of users, especially children, young people and vulnerable adults. It will also include ambitious measures to support continued education and awareness for all users and to promote the development and adoption of new safety technologies. We want to get to a place where we can enjoy the huge benefits of new technology has to offer, without our children, and other vulnerable individuals, being put at risk of serious harm."
She added: "The government is determined to act so that we can all enjoy the huge benefits of new technology, without our children, and other vulnerable individuals, being put at risk of serious harm."
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The move echoes the sentiments of HELLO!’s #HelloToKindness campaign, calling for a need for a change in online behaviour and to eradicate bullying, trolling and meanness on social media platforms. Having been backed by a host of celebrities include the Beckhams, Liam Payne and Andrea McLean.
Bros are just some of the famous faces who have spoken for a need in the change of law, having suffered at the hands of trolls online. Luke Goss told HELLO!: "[Online abuse] won't change without a communal contribution and we have to all commit to a change. We should make it almost an unacceptable thing and not tolerate abuse. Sometimes I wish those keyboard warriors would be right in front of me. It's social abuse. It's not social media anymore." Matt agrees: "It's extremely cowardly as well. Most of these accounts, they don't even show their picture. I do think there needs to be some recourse. There needs to be some consequence for abuse online. Because if you go up to somebody and you abuse them in public, that's an offence. There needs to be clearer lines, a definitive law. I've had some things said to me that I can't even imagine thinking these words."
READ: Online abuse: What to do if you're being trolled
He adds: "Nobody knew that this medium would exist 20 years ago, so therefore there are no laws to protect people from, as Luke said, this social environment. I think there has to be consequences for people because I believe mean people are going to continue. There has to be definitive lines of consequence within the law in this particular medium. It's a big thing to say, but I do believe that governing bodies have to make very, very firm decisions about law."
HELLO! will be discussing the issue in a LIVE panel debate, broadcast on our dedicated #HelloToKindness channel at 8pm tonight. Tune in as Andrea McLean, Lydia Bright and Dr Dawn Harper, along with HELLO!’s Royal Editor Emily Nash, The Diana Award’s chief executive Tessa Ojo and tech expert David Phelan chat about their personal experiences along with practical advice on how to make a change.