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Petitions Committee hears from legal experts and social media companies

18 November 2021

On Tuesday 23 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.

Purpose of the session

In this evidence session, the Committee will examine how social media companies currently respond to the problem of online abuse, how the Online Safety Bill might change their approach, and what more these companies can do to ensure users can be held accountable for their behaviour on these platforms.

The Committee will also consider how proposed changes to laws on hate crime and online communications could affect how online abuse is investigated and prosecuted.

Earlier this year, a new petition calling for verified ID to be made a requirement for opening a social media account 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, in particular 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;
  • The availability and enforcement of legal penalties for online abuse.


Tuesday 23 November 2021

From 14:15

Panel 1:

  • Dr Nicholas Hoggard, Lawyer, Law Commission
  • Professor Penney Lewis, Commissioner, Law Commission

Panel 2:

  • Katy Minshall, Head of UK Public Policy, Twitter
  • Rebecca Stimson, UK Head of Public Policy, Meta
  • Theo Bertram, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy for Europe, TikTok’

Chair's comment

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.”

Further information

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