May 2023

UK public backs calls for Online Safety Bill amendment

Polling which shows huge public support for strengthening the Online Safety Bill (OSB) is being backed by the Molly Rose Foundation (MRF). 

The YouGov polling commissioned by the NSPCC found four in five people (80%) want an independent advocacy body to be created with an amendment to the Online Safety Bill due to be debated by Lords next week.  

The amendment, tabled by former Victim’s Commissioner; Conservative peer Baroness Helen Newlove, would help ensure children’s voices are heard by the regulator Ofcom and provide a counterbalance to the powerful lobbying of large tech companies. 

Andy Burrows, a spokesperson for the MRF,  said: “We strongly support this amendment as a crucial piece of the jigsaw to protect children from preventable online harm.

“If online safety regulation is to succeed, children need a strong, resourced and expert watchdog body that can protect their interests and that can hold tech companies to account and the regulator’s feet to the fire.

“NSPCC polling has revealed that 86% of people think it’s necessary that Ofcom listens to the opinions and experiences of children and 83% say the OSB should create the advocacy body. Clearly the public also feels this is a necessary step to give our children a seat at the table.”

The amendment is backed by Labour’s Lord Jim Knight, online child safety campaigner Baroness Beeban Kidron and Baroness Claire Tyler for the Liberal Democrats. 

Barnardo’s, Young Minds, 5Rights and the Molly Rose Foundation and Breck Foundation, founded by bereaved parents Ian Russell and Lorin LaFave, have also strongly urged the government to adopt the amendment.

The move would mirror statutory user advocacy arrangements that are effective across other regulated sectors, including energy and transport.

NSPCC Chief Executive Sir Peter Wanless said: “The government’s OSB will bring in much needed regulation, but it has been contested by an industry for which children’s safety is too often an afterthought.

“Ofcom will become regulator with child sexual abuse taking place at record levels online and children still being bombarded with suicide content and misogynistic hate driven by aggressive algorithms.   

“Despite this some companies will be resistant to change their business models and Ofcom would benefit from expert support to help clean up decades-worth of harm that is the result of failed self-regulation in the tech sector.

“A statutory child online safety advocate will be crucial for successful regulation. It will give a powerful voice to the experiences of children and act as an early warning system that embeds a focus on prevention into decision making.”

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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