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Petitions Committee hears from social media regulation experts

11 November 2021

On Tuesday 16 November, the Petitions Committee continues its inquiry into Tackling Online Abuse following the Government’s publication of its draft Online Safety Bill earlier this year, with the latest in a series of evidence sessions next week.

These sessions follow evidence sessions on the topic in summer 2020 with petitioners Katie and Amy Price, and Bobby Norris, focusing on their experience of receiving online abuse targeted at them and their families.

Earlier this year, a new petition calling for verified ID to be made a requirement for opening a social media account, which received almost 700,000 signatures in six months. Over 500,000 people signed in the weeks following the racist abuse aimed at England footballers after the 2020 European Championships final.

Particular focuses of the Committee’s inquiry include:

  • The lived experience of people receiving online abuse on social media, particularly in relation to protected characteristics;
  • Social, regulatory and technological solutions to online abuse – in particular the option of user ID verification and/or restrictions on anonymity on social media; and
  • The availability and enforcement of legal penalties for online abuse.

In this evidence session, the Committee will focus on changes campaign groups and experts in social media regulation wish to see to the Government’s draft Online Safety Bill, including calls for the Bill to specifically address anonymous abuse. The Committee will also explore the role of technological solutions such as algorithmic detection of hateful content in tackling online abuse.

Witnesses

The session will start at 14:15, with the Committee hearing from:

Panel 1: Changes campaign groups want to see made to the draft Online Safety Bill

  • Seyi Akiwowo, Founder and CEO, Glitch
  • Andy Burrows, Head of Child Safety Online Policy, NSPCC
  • Stephen Kinsella OBE, Founder, Clean Up The Internet

Panel 2: How technology and regulation can reduce the amount of, and harm caused by, online abuse

  • Ellen Judson, Senior Researcher, Demos
  • William Perrin OBE, Trustee, Carnegie UK Trust
  • Dr Bertie Vidgen, Research Fellow, The Alan Turing Institute

Chair comments

Catherine McKinnell MP, Chair of the Petitions Committee, said:

“Online abuse is a silent menace, and our inquiry is a bid to identify solutions which could help tackle the enormous harm it causes and ensure perpetrators face appropriate consequences for their actions.

Throughout the pandemic, people have been spending more of their lives online, and are at more risk than ever of being exposed to online abuse. Without urgent and decisive action to address this issue, a whole new generation will be irretrievably exposed to and harmed by online abuse.

“The Government has failed to make sufficient progress on preventing online abuse, and our inquiry – together with other work in Parliament on this issue – represents a watershed moment where we can either take action to deal with this crisis or leave it free to cause its harm in so many aspects of modern life.

“We look forward to building on the evidence we’ve heard from petitioners by hearing from expert witnesses in this area over the coming weeks as we hold the Government to account on this issue.”

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