Worcester MP, Robin Walker continues to monitor the progress of the Online Safety Bill that will ensure Worcester, and the rest of the UK, is the safest place to be online.
Debate about the Bill, which promotes free speech whilst minimising online harm, continues to take place in the House of Commons, to ensure the greatest level of online safety for all as it aims to strengthen regulations and add criminal communication offences, to tackle the increase in crime taking place online.
Previous criminal laws regarding online communication have not kept up with the surge in social media and smartphone use. Tech firms currently prioritise regulation targeted at child sexual abuse and exploitation along with terrorism. The new legislation provides a wider scope on criminal content, including the categories of suicide promotion, drug/weapon dealing, revenge porn, people smuggling, fraud and controlling prostitution for gain. To ensure tight regulation, Ofcom will require tech firms to make proportionate adjustments to their algorithms to continue using approved technology.
The UK government is taking forward three recommendations of new criminal offences to be added to the Bill. Firstly including, a ‘genuinely threatening’ communications offence that aims to push the limits imposed by the alternate description ‘menacing’, previously under the Malicious Communications Act 1988. There is also a new harm focussed communications offence regarding harmful threats without an excuse of actions. The last of the three is a false communications offence, further criminalising emotional, psychological, and physical harm caused through deliberate misinformation. These new reforms to criminal law will ensure a greater extent of online criminal communications, both privately and publicly, are detected.
The regulatory framework is directed to online platforms, whereas the new criminal offences are concentrated on individuals, simultaneously ensuing greater online safety.
Speaking on the debate in the Commons, Robin said
“I welcome the efforts to make the internet a safe and less threatening space. Over the last decade we have all seen an enormous growth in online communication and use of social media. Mostly this has been positive but like any new medium, it has provided opportunities for bad people to do bad things.”
“It is right that we should tighten the laws and strengthen the sanctions against those who misuse the power of online communications.”
“As a parent, I hope this legislation helps to make the internet a safer place for children and I shall continue to make sure it hits the right balance between protecting free speech and cutting down on hate speech”