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Social media companies and the Government have failed disabled people

3 August 2018

A cross-party group of MPs believe that social media companies and the Government have failed disabled users and must act urgently.

To ensure the views of disabled people are heard, the Committee have launched a consultation on their draft recommendations for action.

The consultation covers 14 draft recommendations, including making incitement of disability hatred a specific crime and requiring social media companies to produce Easy Read privacy notices. The draft recommendations are based on conversations with and evidence from disabled people, disability advocacy groups, the police and social media companies.

The inquiry into online abuse and the experience of disabled people was prompted by a petition by Katie Price, signed by more than 200,000 people. Her petition calls for a specific criminal offence to cover online abuse and a register of offenders. It talks about online abuse directed at people from all backgrounds, but also highlights the shocking abuse directed at her disabled son, Harvey.

The Petitions Committee highlight that disabled people are failed at every stage in the development of digital policy and practice, noting that:

  • the Government and social media companies fail to consider disabled people when developing policy and practice;
  • the law is insufficient in dealing with disability hate crime;
  • and the online space has opened up new avenues for so-called "mate crime".

So-called "mate crime"—where people are befriended with the intention exploiting them financially, physically or sexually—can be a particular issue for adults with learning disabilities. The Petitions Committee heard that social media and internet dating increase the opportunities for vulnerable disabled people to be targeted.

This is the first time a House of Commons Select Committee has run a full consultation on its proposed recommendations.

Chair's comments

Committee Chair, Helen Jones MP, said:

"Our inquiry into online abuse and the experience of disabled people has shown that social media is rife with vile, degrading and dehumanising comments about people with disabilities. It's time for action.

We've listened to disabled people to come up with our recommendations to tackle online abuse of disabled people and we will spend the summer listening to them again. By launching this consultation, we want to make it clear that the voices of disabled people must be heard.

In the Petitions Committee, we work hard to ensure that our work reflects what the people who petition Parliament think and feel. When we want to know what people think, we ask them. It should be normal practice for Select Committees to consult on their recommendations, so I'm pleased that the Petitions Committee is taking this step.

It is deeply disappointing that social companies don't engage fully with their disabled users. With their vast financial resources, there's no excuse for their failure to make their platforms as safe for disabled people as they are for other users.

We were shocked to hear that in 2018 the Government still don't ensure that the needs of all communities are considered when looking at digital policy. Parliament and Government are there to serve the people, and neither can do that if we don't include them in the conversation."

Further information

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