Press release: MSPs slam UK Government for failing to implement online pornography safeguardsOnline Safety
Scottish politicians have criticised a UK Government decision to scrap safeguards designed to prevent children from accessing commercial pornography websites.
A motion in the name of Rhoda Grant MSP, supported by several SNP politicians, expresses "concern" over the UK Government’s failure to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 (the 2017 Act), UK-wide legislation aimed at protecting children from accessing harmful online materials.
Last month, UK Ministers revealed that they plan to scrap the measures altogether, ironically via new 'online safety' legislation.
The motion notes that "a coalition of women’s organisations, headteachers, children’s charities and parliamentarians" have called on the government to enforce Part 3 as an interim measure and calls on the UK Government to implement them "without further delay, so as to ensure that children, and women, in Scotland and throughout the UK are protected".
Michael Veitch, Parliamentary Officer for the charity CARE, which worked closely with politicians during the formation of the Digital Economy Act, commented:
“We are highly concerned about the potential impact, here in Scotland, of the UK Government’s failure to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act. For each day these safeguards fail to be implemented, children in Scotland continue to stumble across commercial porn sites which are full of graphic and disturbing content.
“Implementing Part 3 would also see the establishment of a regulator to take strong action against sites showing extreme and violent porn. With growing concerns about ‘rape culture’ and tragic cases of sexual violence, such as that of Sarah Everard, this type of regulation couldn’t be more important.
“We are delighted that a number of MSPs, from different parties, have backed this motion and we urge the UK Government to change course.”
Motion in the name of Rhoda Grant MSP
"That the Parliament notes with concern the UK Government’s reported failure to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 (the 2017 Act), aimed at protecting children from accessing harmful online materials; understands that the UK Government’s recently published Draft Online Safety Bill would remove the age verification safeguards that were approved by the UK Parliament in 2017, targeted at all commercial pornography websites; further understands that Part 3 of the 2017 Act also empowers the regulator to enforce the law in relation to websites showing the most violent category of illegal pornography, which it considers does much to normalise sexual violence towards women; acknowledges that a coalition of women’s organisations, headteachers, children’s charities and parliamentarians have called on the UK Government to implement Part 3 as an interim measure, and therefore urges the UK Government to implement Part 3 of the 2017 Act without further delay, so as to ensure that children, and women, in Scotland and throughout the UK are protected."
Supported by: John Mason*, Siobhian Brown*, Sarah Boyack*, Kenneth Gibson*, Collette Stevenson*, Paul McLennan*, Stuart McMillan*, Bill Kidd*
About Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act
Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 was designed to compel commercial pornography websites to verify the age of their visitors, thereby barring access to children. It also sought to establish a regulator, empowered to take robust action against any site showing illegal ‘extreme pornography,’ which normalises violence against women.’
Part 3 was supported by children’s charities, women’s groups, campaigners, and parliamentarians on all sides. However, it has never been brought into force. Now the government intends to repeal it - ironically, through its new 'online safety' proposals.
Ministers claim that new online safety proposals supersede Part 3. However, the online safety proposals focus on platforms which host 'user generated content' and will not apply to all commercial pornography sites. It risks leaving a dangerous loophole in legislation.
Notes for Editors:
CARE is a well-established mainstream Christian charity providing resources and helping to bring Christian insight and experience to matters of public policy and practical caring initiatives. CARE is represented in the UK Parliaments and Assemblies.
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