Online safety bill big disappointment for women and girls, senior Tory peers say, as Love Island star recounts abuse | Politics News

The failure of the government’s flagship online safety bill to include specific protections against misogyny has “significantly failed women and girls”, a senior Conservative colleague said.

Baroness Nicky Morgan joined campaigners and celebrities in calling for the Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) code of conduct to be included in legislation – telling Sky News that not doing so would be “a huge missed opportunity”.

“I think the biggest shortcoming of the bill is that it doesn’t specifically mention women and girls at all, but we know women and girls are far more likely to be harassed online,” she said.

“Many (social media) platforms have become a focal point for viewing misogyny, a place where women and girls feel very uncomfortable.

“A lot of people routinely remove themselves from the online space, and that’s not what we want at all – we don’t accept it in the offline world.”

Nicky Morgan
Nicky Morgan

As the bill moves through the House of Lords, Mrs Morgan introduced an amendment requiring regulator Ofcom to enforce the VAWG code of conduct, which tech platforms must comply with or face fines.

The former cabinet minister said that while the government was criminalizing offenses such as online stalking and sharing intimate images, it was not enough and would not stop the online abuse women face every day.

More information about the Online Safety Act

While previous versions of the long-awaited legislation included requiring tech platforms to remove “legitimate but harmful” content, such as misogynistic views, scrapped last year Companies are told to give adult users tools to hide content they don’t want to see.

However, Ms Morgan, who was culture secretary when the policy was first introduced in 2019, said the “whole nature of how these online platforms are designed” needed to be looked at so that women and girls were considered “from the start”.

“It’s about thinking, how do the algorithms work to disadvantage women and girls? How do you allow hateful content to proliferate online?” she said.

“Not having this amendment would be a huge missed opportunity.

“I think the bill in its current form will disappoint women and girls and not provide the protections that we would have had if we hadn’t legislated this code of conduct.”

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The act places a duty on companies to protect people from abusive messages, bullying and pornography.

Ex-Love Island contestant ‘received voice recording of rape threats’

Mrs Morgan spoke outside Parliament House as activists gathered to highlight the abuse women face online.

Reality TV personality Georgia Harrison whose ex-boyfriend is Stephen Bell Recently jailed for sharing video of couple having sexsaid women and girls are being “traumatized” by social media harassment as she backed calls for stronger protections in the Online Safety Act.

“If you look through my private messages, it’s a scary place right now. There are thousands of women struggling online and they don’t have a voice,” she told Sky News.

“If we can get that [code of practice] Join the Online Safety Act and we can protect them in the future. “

Ms Harrison spoke and warned of the lack of protection for women and girls in front of a giant mobile phone installation, which was erected by the charity Refuge “to highlight the multiple spaces online where women are at risk of abuse”.

She’s joined by former Love Island contestant Sharon Gaffka, a refuge ambassador, as she reflects on her experience with online abuse

Sharon Gaffka Says She Received Rape Threats
Sharon Gaffka Says She Received Rape Threats

“I get unsolicited images online from men every day, sometimes sexually violent messages including voicemails threatening rape. The more I talk, the higher the message gets.”

Ms Gafka, 27, said she lived in fear of online abuse happening in real life.

read more:
Why the Online Safety Act is so controversial

“I don’t think people realize how dangerous it is.

“I’ve had some conversations about me in the pic group where they talk about my body in a demeaning and pictorial way – it’s scary because online isn’t always online.

“I work closely with Thames Valley Police … very serious perpetrators of sexual violence start with very low levels of crime, such as unsolicited imagery.”

A third of women in the UK have experienced abuse or harassment online, research by Refuge has found.

Jessica Eagelton, Refuge’s policy manager, said “the bill is inconsistent with broader commitments to address violence, women and girls”.

She called the proposed changes “absolutely urgent”, adding: “This is a generation of legislation to regulate social media companies, so it is very important that violence against women and girls is at the heart of it.”

this Online Safety Act Designed to regulate online content to help keep users safe, especially children, and hold companies accountable for protecting people from content such as abusive messages, bullying and pornography.

But while some have called for the bill to go further, tech companies fear it will be too far-reaching, Not clear what they will be asked to review — while members of Congress have also voiced concerns about free speech.

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