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Girls Aloud star Nicola Roberts criticises Government’s Online Safety Bill

Nicola Roberts (Ian West/PA)
Nicola Roberts (Ian West/PA)

Girls Aloud star Nicola Roberts has criticised the Government’s Online Safety Bill, claiming it fails to stop abusive web users from rejoining social media platforms after being banned.

The singer, 35, responded to a post by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on Twitter, in which he had condemned the racist abuse members of the England football team received following their Euro 2020 loss on Sunday.

England penalty-takers Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka were targeted on social media after they missed from the spot during the penalty shootout.

Mr Dowden said: “I share the anger at appalling racist abuse of our heroic players.

“Social media companies need to up their game in addressing it and, if they fail to, our new Online Safety Bill will hold them to account with fines of up to 10 per cent of global revenue.”

The Bill will put a new legal duty of care on online companies to protect their UK users from harm, including people receiving abusive comments, threats and harassment online.

However, Roberts claimed the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) had not spoken to victims of online abuse while creating it.

Replying to Mr Dowden’s comments, she wrote: “It will NOT. Until you close the gaps on making it impossible for an abuser to keep creating accounts.

“The @DCMS had not spoken to victims to gain experience of how to make this bill the most effective. It can’t look like you’re making a change. The change has to happen.”

On Monday, Roberts also shared a lengthy post on Instagram in which she said she had met the DCMS two weeks ago to discuss the Bill.

“As someone who has dealt with abuse, harassment and stalking online which led to conviction and restraining order, they asked me and I know are asking others to support the bill and champion it though in hopes for it to become legislation,” she said.

Roberts said that after reading the draft bill “the biggest loop hole and inadequacy I found in the efficiency of the bill is that they had failed to combat the problem of someone’s account being taken down only for them only to start a new one under a different name”.

Roberts said she was unable to support the bill until “something more concrete” was developed to tackle the problem.

Italy v England
Marcus Rashford was among the players to receive abuse following the match (Nick Potts/PA)

She added: “It would be unproductive and a slap in the face for me to support something that ultimately was still contributing to countless people experiencing abuse online.

“The online racism we have seen since last nights England game targeted at in particular a 19yr old is despicable.

“While my conversation with the department was private, today highlights why the bill really needs more work.”

A DCMS spokesperson said: “This legislation will tackle anonymous abuse. We will not impose a blanket ban on anonymity online because for some groups such as people exploring their sexuality or suffering from domestic abuse it is important.

“However, all social media companies will have to meet their duty of care, which will mean stopping repeat offenders from opening new accounts and working with the authorities to make it easier to find people who set up accounts anonymously to abuse others.”

Roberts rocketed to fame as a member of Girls Aloud alongside Cheryl, Sarah Harding, Nadine Coyle and Kimberley Walsh.

They formed in 2002 on ITV’s Popstars: The Rivals, where Spice Girl Geri Horner was a judge alongside Pete Waterman and Louis Walsh.

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