Landmark social media bill brought forward by Anna Turley MP

  • New legislation would require social media platforms to filter out abusive messages
  • Children under the age of 18 to have automatic screening of abusive messages
  • Anna Turley says the platforms have been failing to protect their users from harmful abuse for too long

Anna Turley, Member of Parliament for Redcar, has brought a landmark piece of legislation before Parliament – the first of its kind to deal directly with social media.

The Malicious Communications (Social Media) Bill 2016-17 is a Private Members Bill, secured by Anna, which seeks to improve the regulatory framework around social media platforms.

The legislation would place a responsibility on social media platforms to filter out abusive content before it reaches the intended recipient, rather than the current practise where users report abuse after receiving it.

Offensive and threatening content can cause emotional distress or harm. An NSPCC report on child safety in the UK published in 2016 found that in 2015/16 there were 4,541 Childline counselling sessions where cyber bullying was mentioned - a 13% increase since 2014/153.

The problem of online abuse is growing and the volume of cases places intense pressure on police services, who have limited resources to handle these cases. This bill creates a simple filter so that people can enjoy communicating with others on these platforms whilst protecting themselves from harm.

For social media operators who do not take reasonable means to prevent abuse, the Bill gives OFCOM the power to fine them up to £2,000,000 or 5% of their global turnover.

Anna said:

“For many years social media platforms have been failing to protect their users from harmful abuse. Every day thousands of people are victims of intimidating, offensive, indecent, obscene or menacing messages which can cause a great deal of distress and harm, particularly to children and young people.

“This bill doesn't get in the way of free speech, it simply creates an optional filter for online abuse; a bit like a spam filter on your emails. These social media platforms already have highly sophisticated tools and algorithms that would enable them to screen out abusive content. It's about time they used them to protect people. Everyday users of social media have a right to use their platforms without receiving unsolicited abuse.

“Abusive messages would still be accessible should the police need to take action where an actual crime has been committed, or if indeed the victim choses to see it.

“I have been really pleased with the cross-party support this Bill has received. Social media platforms have been dragging their feet while there has been an epidemic of bullying and abuse on their sites. I hope the government will see it as a useful tool to tackle the growing menace of online abuse.”

The Bill will receive its second reading on Friday 24th March 2017.

A copy of the bill can be found online here: https://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/bills/cbill/2016-2017/0044/17044.pdf

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