Charities support new laws to make ‘digital lives’ safer

Charities among first to support DCMS intention to bring unregulated social media under tighter control and make it safer for younger users.

James Hayes | 24th May 18
Young person using smartphone to access social media. The UK government wants to work with charities and other digital stakeholders for better regulation of the Internet to protect young users. Unsplash/Kev Costello

The UK government says it will lead the introduction of new Internet safety legislation designed to make social media more regulated.

Working with children’s charities, technology providers and other stakeholders, it aims to develop laws that will make the UK “the safest place in the world to be online”, according to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS).

The move is among a series of measures included in the government’s response to the Internet Safety Strategy green paper, published this week.

A force for good

“Digital tech is overwhelmingly a force for good across the world and we must always champion innovation and change for the better,” said Matt Hancock, DCMS Secretary of State. “At the same time I have been clear that we have to address the ‘Wild West’ elements of the Internet through legislation, in a way that supports innovation. People increasingly live their lives through online platforms so it’s more important than ever that people are safe.”

Hancock added: “DCMS and Home Office will jointly work on a White Paper with other government departments, to be published later this year. This will set out legislation to be brought forward that tackles a range of both legal and illegal harms, from cyberbullying to online child sexual exploitation.

“The Government will continue to collaborate closely with industry on this work, to ensure it builds on progress already made.”

Initial charity feedback

UK charity leaders welcomed the new initiative, and pledged their support.

“We applaud the Government’s commitment to making the UK the safest place to be online and the recognition of the need to bring industry, charities and the public together to tackle the risks and opportunities the online world brings,” said Javed Khan, CEO at Barnardo’s. “This charity has long seen the harm that online can bring to children’s lives. Our own child sexual abuse services saw a 38% increase in 2017 in children referred.”

“We’re proud to support this government’s Internet safety strategy, having been part of a number of consultations seeking and representing the views of our staff, young people and schools,” said Alex Holmes, Deputy CEO at The Diana Award. “We know from our powerful peer to peer education programmes the positive part that digital technology plays in the lives of children and young people – as well as the risks it can bring.”

Any changes recommended by the Law Commission’s Review of Online Offensive Communications, announced by the Prime Minister in February, will be considered as part of the legislation.