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Govt's failure to crack down on extreme porn linked to Sarah Everard murder

Online Safety
29 July 2021
Skynews sarah everard missing 5300811

The Government have been questioned about their failure to clamp down on violent pornography websites in the UK, after it emerged that Wayne Couzens, who raped and murdered Sarah Everard, was obsessed with violent, extreme porn.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Baroness Benjamin asked the Government whether they had considered the impact of their decision not to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act on the safety of women and girls, in light of Everard's murder.

Porn web­sites going unregulated

Baroness Benjamin pointed out that, had the Government implemented Part 3, this would have meant that, since the beginning of 2020, there would have been 'a regulator with powers to take robust action against any pornographic website showing extreme, violent pornography in the UK.'

Coupled with recent reports that sexual harassment amongst children is being fuelled by extreme porn, there is mounting evidence that the unregulated porn industry is causing widespread harm to women and girls, and that action must be taken.

Benjamin2 T

Does not tackle viol­ence against women

The Government responded that Baroness Benjamin was 'absolutely right in what she said' and that the Online Harms Bill will look to address these concerns, but will only go 'some way towards addressing it'.

However, this response is at odds with the Government's strategy to tackle violence against women and girls, newly launched last week.

The strategy highlights the link between pornography and violence:

‘The Call for Evidence showed a widespread consensus about the harmful role of violent pornography can play in violence against women and girls, with most respondents to the open public surveys and many respondents to the nationally representative survey agreeing that an increase in violent pornography has led to more people being asked to agree to violent sex acts...and to more people being sexually assaulted.'
Tackling Violence Against Women & Girls Strategy

The Government has also been aware for some time of the link between pornography and violence, given that research conducted by the Government Equalities Office back in 2020 found evidence of the impact of porn on harmful sexual behaviour.

The Gov­ern­ment can take action now

CARE has been calling on the Government to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act since it was first passed in 2017.

Despite promising to implement it, the Government reneged on their commitment. When they published the draft of their Online Harms Bill, this repealed Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act.

The Government have stated that they want to take a more holistic approach to tackling harmful content online, but in the meantime, they are delaying implementing legislation that has already been passed by Parliament and could have an immediate effect on reducing access to harmful content online, and therefore on violence against women and girls.

The response from the Minister to Baroness Benjamin's question suggests the Government still plan to follow this course of action.

Naomi Marsden, Deputy Head of Communications, said:

The Government are clearly aware of the impact of violent and extreme pornography on harmful behaviour, violence and sexual harassment towards women and girls. Their own research has demonstrated this link. So why have they failed to take swift and robust action to tackle it?

It is tragic to think that this kind of vile pornography could have been shut down by a regulator for the past year, but instead no action has been taken due to the Government's decision not to implement Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act.

CARE will continue to call on the Government to implement this legislation, which has already been passed by Parliament, and could have an immediate effect in clamping down on online porn. The Government's current approach is only causing delays in protecting women and girls.
Naomi Marsden Deputy Head of Communications, CARE

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