Today the government has announced plans to make the UK the “safest place in the world to be online.” As part of the governments internet safety green paper the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is demanding that social networks and internet providers remove abusive, humiliating or intimidating content, with an industry-wide levy applied to help raise awareness. This voluntary levy will see internet companies such as Google and Facebook asked to pay measures to combat and raise awareness about online bullying and other web dangers. However, if the companies refuse to pay a levy the culture secretary, Karen Bradley, has not ruled out a legislative approach.

The Countryside Alliance (CA) welcome these plans since we have long campaigned for the government to keep online abuse on the Parliamentary agenda. The CA strongly condemn online bullying of any kind but we have been particularly involved with helping raise awareness to the online bullying that rural communities and pursuers of country sports face on a daily basis. This was most recently brought to the front page when Melania Capitan, a prominent Spanish hunter who documented her movements and methods on social media platforms, tragically committing suicide following a string of violent online threats.

The CA have taken several steps to help tackle online bullying. In March we wrote to Facebook to alert them to particular abusive comments, urging the social media platform to reconsider and update their community standards so to be in accordance with new CPS guidelines published in the autumn. In addition to this, we ran a Thunderclap campaign to focus on raising awareness of online abuse and the bullying of people in the countryside. This campaign reached approximately 1.2 million people and called on social platforms to take threats seriously and take action by standing up to those who incite hatred and violence.

The government’s proposals are definitely a step in the right direction to help stop this growing issue and we will be responding to the consultation, but we would urge all of our members to make sure that they report any online abuse that they come across by using the various social media platforms’ built-in features.