Vulnerability doesn’t stop just because you’ve reached the age of 18, says peer
Campaigners have warned that the Online Safety Bill does not go far enough to protect social media users from harmful eating-disorder-related material.
There are calls to protect not just children but vulnerable adults from content such as videos promoting anorexia along with self-harm and bullying.
The government scrapped controversial measures to force internet companies to take down “legal but harmful” content, following a backlash from free speech advocates.
As the bill currently stands, the rule will now only apply to social media users under the age of 18, meaning tech giants will not be responsible for shielding adults from harmful content.
“Vulnerability doesn’t stop just because you’ve reached the age of 18,” said Conservative peer Baroness Nicky Morgan, according to the i.
“Why is it okay for these highly influential platforms to show this content to potentially very vulnerable people and not to regulate it?”
Baroness Morgan, a former culture secretary, also flagged concerns about said the “opt-out” approach to moderation that is at present part of the bill. She believes this would fail to protect youngsters who have eating disorders when they turn 18.
“There is no way they would have had the capacity to be turning that sort of harmful content off,” she told i.
“The toggle, as it were, which means eating disorder-related content is shown to adults by default, should be the other way round.”
Three in 10 girls under the age of 18 suffer from an eating disorder, found a new large-scale study published last month.
It reported that one in six boys are affected, while one in five (22 per cent) of children overall suffer from conditions such as anorexia, bulimia and other extreme dieting behaviour.
The research, published in the journal Jama Pediatrics, looked at data from 32 studies involving more than 63,000 participants aged between seven and 18 in 16 different countries, including the UK.
A recent study by the Eating Disorders Genetics Initiative (EDGI) found that eating disorders are just as likely to emerge in adulthood than childhood.
The survey of almost 9,000 Britons found that 53 per cent first developed regular binge eating over the age of 18, while 58 per cent first experienced low weight over the age of 18.