January 2023

Online Safety Bill clears the Commons with stiff amendments

The Molly Rose Foundation is pleased the Online Safety Bill is a step closer to becoming law and we look forward to the debate to come in the House of Lords.

There’s still much work to do if young people who find themselves in situations similar to Molly’s are to be effectively protected and we’ll be watching closely on the detail of the promised amendments to ensure they deliver for children and vulnerable users. 

To protect young people from the algorithmic feed of harmful material like Molly saw, the Bill’s child safety duties must apply to all content ‘likely to be accessed’ by children. Anything less will allow more monetising misery.

We fully support the Baroness Kidron amendment, to allow coroners access to data in cases like Molly’s, allowing them to hold the inquest more quickly and reducing the likelihood of a five-year-wait for bereaved families, (though this is in no way a criticism of Andrew Walker who was sympathetic and supportive). 

The use of Age Verification and Age Assurance best practices needs to be included and measures to prevent possible exposure to harmful content from the age of 18 need to be set out. Adults too are at risk from algorithmically amplified online harms.

Platform transparency is essential to reduce the possibility of emerging harms and quicken the adoption of new safety best practices. Ofcom will need sufficient powers to audit when needed.

Andy Burrows, a spokesperson for the Foundation said: “There is a real opportunity for the government to engage constructively in the Lords and to double down on safety as the North Star of this Bill. 

“Parents will judge this legislation by whether it does everything possible to tackle preventable harm.”

The Bill cleared the Commons on Tuesday after receiving an unopposed third reading, with Labour and the SNP calling for further changes when it is scrutinised in the House of Lords. 

If you’re struggling just text MRF to 85258 so you can speak to a trained volunteer from Shout, the UK’s Crisis Text Line service

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