It is well-known that it is challenging for legislation to keep up with changes in technology. The internet has a wealth of knowledge but there are dangers, and keeping children safe has become a growing concern. Therefore, I’m very pleased to see that the Online Safety Bill is likely to become law very soon.
This bill will make the internet safer for children while also protecting free speech and giving adults more control over what they see. I welcome this world-leading legislation from our Conservative Government that brings in measures to protect children from the worst of what’s online.
The bill criminalises the encouragement of self-harm, it requires firms to show how they enforce user age limits, while prohibiting platforms from banning users where they do not breach their terms of service. Companies that fail to protect children will be fined, while ensuring that tech firms and future governments cannot censor legitimate views.
While increasing protections for children, adults will have more power transferred to them over what content is visible. Companies will have to keep underage children off platforms intended solely for adults and social media firms required to remove illegal content from their platforms.
The Online Safety Bill will create a new criminal offence of assisting or encouraging self-harm online. Social media in particular presents significant risks to children. The bill requires social media companies to be fully transparent with consumers by removing content that they say is prohibited in their terms of service or face a fine of up to 10% of annual turnover. I genuinely believe this legislation will be a very positive step in the right direction.
Locally, West Sussex County Council email out an informative monthly newsletter called Staying Safe Online, which provides helpful advice and tips for helping to keep everyone safe online, including how we as adults can help keep our children safe. Just do an online search of “West Sussex Staying Safe Online” and it’s the first thing that comes up. As well as helpful web pages, the link to sign up to the monthly newsletter is on the opening page.
Councillor Duncan Crow, Leader of Crawley Borough Council Conservative Group
20th September 2023