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Child safety hangs in the balance as Online Safety Bill paused, perhaps dropped

Online Safety
13 July 2022
Hay Phone Photo 1

Child safety campaigners have expressed concern after reports emerged suggesting the Online Safety Bill has been paused, perhaps indefinitely.

This evening, Politics Home reported that the government’s flagship legislation is set to be dropped from Commons business next week.

The outlet understands that it may make a return “in the autumn” but this depends on the views of the new Prime Minister.

At least one candidate has been scathing about the bill, describing it as a threat to freedom of speech.

CARE has campaigned for age verification measures set to be introduced under the bill, should it go ahead.

These would see platforms forced to verify the age of visitors to their sites before allowing them to access adult content.

Age checks on porn sites are supported by the vast majority of adults in the UK and the porn industry itself has supported the measures.

Tim Cairns, Senior Policy Officer at CARE, commented:

“CARE completely understands the free speech concerns associated with certain provisions in the Online Safety Bill, and we share fears that a requirement to police ‘legal but harmful’ speech would devastate free expression online. However, other aspects of this legislation are unquestionably laudable.

“We are living in an era when safeguarding in the online sphere does not match safeguarding in the offline world. CARE is particularly concerned about the array of disturbing and harmful content children encounter online, including pornography, which they can access with ease.

“Age verification is one measure that would reduce child exposure to pornography – something the vast majority of Brits support. Age checks were already legislated for in 2017 but never actually brought into force. The Online Safety Bill was supposed to correct this mistake.

“If the Online Safety Bill does not return at all under a new Prime Minister, the government must enact Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act immediately, to deliver this safeguard. If a version of the bill returns, we trust this vital aspect will be retained and introduced quickly.

"Failing to deliver this change would amount to a second betrayal of children, who deserve help and protection from those in power."

ENDS

About CARE

Christian Action Research and Education (CARE) provides analysis of social policy from a Christian perspective. For more information or to request an interview, contact Jamie Gillies | jamie.gillies@care.org.uk

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