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While welcoming the return of the Online Safety Bill, we are concerned by some of the changes announced today.

The Minderoo Centre for Technology and Democracy is pleased to see the announcement made today by the Secretary of State that the Online Safety Bill will return to Parliament next week. 

The announcement stated that the returning Online Safety Bill will include stronger protections for children, with platforms forced to be clearer with parents about dangers. This is a welcomed development. 

It was announced that firms will still need to protect children and remove content that is illegal or prohibited in their terms of service. However it also stated that the Bill will also no longer define specific types of legal content that companies must address. 

Legal but harmful measures will be replaced with new duties and replaced with a ‘consumer-friendly ‘triple shield’’. This, they say, will give adults greater control over online posts they may not wish to see on platforms. 

We are alarmed by this development. This is not a balanced approach. Will this preserve freedom of speech, and if it does, for whom? 

Women already face enormous risks online. Research has shown that women are much more likely to face online abuse than men, and this is especially true for women who are highly visible online. 

A UNESCO study of journalists found that 73% of women had experienced online violence and 20% of women said that they had experienced attacked or abused offline in connect to online abuse. In response, women journalists reported self-censoring, withdrawing from online interactions, and avoiding interacting with their audiences. 

Freedom of speech cannot be free if half the population is being harassed out of participation in public life.

If policymakers ignore the harms that adults can face and fail to hold social media platforms to a duty-of-care standard, they will fail British citizens. They will fail to ensure everyone has freedom of speech. 

We look forward to reading the latest draft and will assess and respond to the first amendments that have been tabled to the Bill in the Commons for Report Stage on 5 December, as well as the further amendments that will be made at later stages of the Bill’s passage. 


For press enquires contact: minderoo@crassh.cam.ac.uk