by David Bean

The Countryside Alliance briefing on the Second Reading of the Online Safety Bill in the House of Commons is available in full here.

KEY POINTS

  • Online bullying and harassment are issues of genuine concern that the Countryside Alliance has campaigned on for many years. While we appreciate that there are controversies around this Bill, if it is to be taken forward we are calling on the Government to ensure it can be the effective response to this problem that is sorely needed.
  • We welcome the Bill’s attempt to tackle online abuse, in particular through its introduction of the new offences of Harmful communications, False communications and Threatening communications and through the steps it requires social media companies to take to prevent their platforms from being used to spread hatred.
  • We do, however, believe that the Bill shows room for improvement in terms of its internal consistency and its likely effectiveness against all aspects of the problem.
  • The Bill must effectively tackle the issue of extremist activists posting false, critical reviews of businesses, motivated by their ideological opposition to aspects of their operations or their owners’ personal choices.
  • The Bill must allow action against those who instigate campaigns of targeted harassment against others, regardless of whether they become active participants in sending harmful, false or threatening communications themselves.
  • There should also be further clarification as to how the Bill will tackle the issue of harassment under the cloak of anonymity.
  • The Bill leans heavily on definitions and details of regulations that are to be given in secondary legislation. There may be a case for amending the Bill to include considerations that the Secretary of State must have regard to in drawing these up.
  • The legislation, whatever its final form, must be enforced rigorously and without fear or favour.

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