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Illegal and harmful content could evade new online safety law, warn MPs

24 January 2022

A new Report warns that draft Government legislation on online harms would fail to prevent the sharing of some of the most “insidious” images of child abuse and violence against women and girls.

Scrutiny by the DCMS Committee of the Government’s Draft Online Safety Bill has found that in its current form, the legislation is neither clear nor robust enough to tackle certain types of illegal and harmful content on user-to-user and search services.

In the Report published today, MPs call on the Government to address types of content that are technically legal - including parts of child abuse sequences like “breadcrumbing” and types of online violence against and women and girls such as tech-enabled “nudifying” of women and deepfake pornography - by bringing them into scope either through primary legislation or as types of harmful content covered by the duties of care.

MPs reject a recommendation made by the Joint Committee to include in the Bill the establishment of a permanent Committee of both Houses on the grounds that such a development would duplicate the existing constitutional role of the DCMS Committee.

Chair's comments

Chair of the DCMS Committee Julian Knight MP said:

“In its current form what should be world-leading, landmark legislation instead represents a missed opportunity.

The Online Safety Bill neither protects freedom of expression nor is it clear nor robust enough to tackle illegal and harmful online content.

Urgency is required to ensure that some of the most pernicious forms of child sexual abuse do not evade detection because of a failure in the online safety law.

These are matters of important public debate to which we will return as the Bill makes its way through Parliament.”

Further information

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