Campaigning for social media regulation to ensure that children are safe online has been one of our priorities at the NSPCC since 2017.
Now, with the first reading of the Online Safety Bill imminent, we are urging the UK Government to strengthen the legislation because we believe it risks missing the fundamental goal of keeping children safe from grooming.
We feel the bill fails to address the complex nature and dynamics of online abuse and will not prevent children from coming to avoidable harm. And, recent polling shows overwhelming public support for the robust regulations we consider crucial to combat child sexual abuse, but which are missing from the current plans.
Two and a half thousand adults, including 212 from Scotland, of various ages and political persuasions, were asked their thoughts on the elements currently missing from the bill.
More than four in five supported the appointment of a senior manager, or safety controller, by social media firms to be held liable for children’s safety on their platforms.
Almost three quarters of those who gave an opinion supported the named manager being prosecuted if they failed to protect children from serious harm. And, more than four in five adults in Scotland supported a legal duty requiring social media companies to work with each other to prevent online grooming happening across multiple platforms.
Without these measures in place, the legislation risks being all bark and no bite and offering no extra protection to prevent children from coming to avoidable harm.
Online grooming offences have risen by around 80%
The Online Safety Bill began as a child protection measure but unless significant changes are made to improve it – as proposed by the NSPCC and supported by the majority of people across Scotland and the rest of the UK – it will fail to protect children from grooming.
More than 40,000 people have signed an open letter to the UK Government’s culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, calling for the bill to be toughened up
We know that Police Scotland recorded more than 3,000 child abuse image crimes in the last five years, and online grooming offences have risen by around 80% in this period.
More than 40,000 people have signed an open letter to the UK Government’s culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, calling for the bill to be toughened up, ensuring children are safer from groomers who can currently form networks with other offenders and link to child abuse content across platforms.
We urgently need strong legislation and a robust Online Safety Bill to help keep children safer online. The bill as it stands is not enough.
Gail Sayles is NSPCC Scotland local campaigns manager