Next prime minister must deliver Online Safety Bill, urge campaigners

·2 min read

A group of survivors and families affected by abuse on social media have written to the Tory leadership candidates to urge the next prime minister to prioritise the Online Safety Bill.

The collection of campaigners called on Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to resist calls to water down the planned internet safety laws and commit to delivering them without delay.

The proposed legislation had been scheduled to make its way through Parliament before the summer recess but has been delayed until a new prime minister is in place.

It aims to place new duties on social platforms to protect their users from harmful content, with fines and other potential penalties for those who fail to do so.

There are concerns in some quarters that the Bill will damage free speech and enable censorship, while others believe it does not go far enough to curb the spread of harmful material online.

In their letter, the campaigners said it is “upsetting” to see some opponents of the Bill “rejoicing at this delay and calling for the legislation to be scrapped altogether”.

The coalition is made up of 15 grooming and sexual abuse survivors and parents of children who died by suicide after seeing harmful content online.

“We have long campaigned for laws to better protect children online and were frustrated and disappointed to see the Online Safety Bill delayed rather than pass through Parliament last month,” the letter said.

“With every month the legislation is delayed the NSPCC say we will see more than 3,500 online child sexual abuse crimes against children.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss
Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss (PA)

“These offences have increased tenfold in just a decade. And bullying, pro-anorexia posts, harmful self-harm and suicide content continue to fill children’s streams.

“This level of harm against children would not be accepted in any other industry, which is why the next prime minister must make the Online Safety Bill a national priority and pave the way for urgent regulation to begin.”

Concerns have been raised by experts on all sides of the debate around the Bill after changes in government and ministers with different priorities overseeing the Bill.

In their letter, the campaigners insisted Ms Truss or Mr Sunak must move forward with the legislation.

“Should you become the next prime minister, we urge you to keep the promise made to children and families and deliver a robust Online Safety Bill in full and without delay,” they said.

“Any watering down of the Bill would be unacceptable and break the commitment made to children and families in the Conservative Party manifesto to deliver the strongest possible protections for children online.”