The proposal to introduce a new criminal offence of ‘encouraging self-harm’ within the draft Online Safety Bill appears a significant move. It not only criminalises those who do the encouraging, but also turns this activity into an illegal offence – which means that even if the harmful but legal clauses in the Bill are removed or curtailed, such content would still be legislated against.
From the evidence submitted to Molly Russell’s inquest in September, the ‘harmful but legal’ content probably did the most damage to Molly’s mental health. Would this new offence prevent posts such as: ‘Who would love a suicidal girl?’ or would these continue to be spread by the social media tech platforms?
It’s therefore important that other ‘harmful but legal’ content, of the type we know was harmful to Molly, is also within scope of the Bill. Any changes to the current Bill should not delay its progress to the Lords, to allow sufficient time for scrutiny and debate there, since the devil will be in the detail. These are complex and vital matters we need to get right for the sake of young people in the future.
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