Online Safety Bill change proposed to tackle online sexist abuse

The amendment would see tech bosses face jail time

Proposed changes to the Online Safety Bill would require social media companies like Facebook and Twitter to prevent online abuse and violence against women and girls.

A cross-party group of lords, led by former culture secretary Nicky Morgan, is backing the amendment, which would see tech bosses face jail time and firms being fined up to 10 per cent of global turnover if they do not remove abusive content and ban repeat offenders.

Writing for The Telegraph, Tory peer Baroness Morgan of Cotes said currently social media giants “are failing women and girls”.

She said that the internet was still a “wild west” for females and the bill provides an opportunity to create safe space.

“Too often, women and girls receive inadequate support from tech companies. They are left feeling isolated and forced offline,” she said.

She added: “I have tabled an amendment calling for a Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Code of Practice to be written into the bill.

“There are already codes for other issues such as terrorism and child abuse, but a code is desperately needed to specifically address the harms to women and girls.”

Around one in three UK women have experienced abuse online, according to domestic abuse charity Refuge.

The death of 14-year-old Molly Russell by suicide in 2017 shone a light on the dangers of youngsters being able to access content relating to self-harm and suicide online.

The Online Safety Bill was introduced in the Spring of 2022 under Boris Johnson and it aims to make the country “the safest place in the world to be online”. However, the new law has been mired by multiple delays and criticisms that it could lead to censorship and undermine free speech.

Previously, the idea that tech chiefs will be liable for failing to comply with the bill’s requirements was rejected after a consultation ahead of the bill’s introduction, which concluded it could make the UK tech sector less attractive.

A Government spokesperson said ministers are committed to tackling online abuse and violence against women and girls, and the bill combats the  sot harmful content including “revenge and extreme pornography, sex trafficking, harassment, coercive or controlling behaviour and cyberstalking”.

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