This briefing summarises the primary improvements to the Online Safety Bill that the Countryside Alliance is supporting to allow it better to address the issue of activist-motivated online bullying and harassment, and thereby better safeguard the mental health and general wellbeing of potential victims. These amendments have been tabled in the name of Baroness Buscombe, Lord Garnier and others.
The False Communications offence should be widened to include, first, financial harm (Amdt 266) and second, harm to the person or organisation (including a business) to whom or to which the information in it related (Amdt 267), in order to address the issue of ideologically motivated false reviews of businesses and ‘false flag’ efforts to discredit organisations or individuals.
The interpretation of the communications offences should be broadened to include the incitement of offending behaviour by others, the suggestion being to use the language introduced in Part 2 of the Serious Crime Act 2007 to define the inchoate offence of incitement. (Amdt 268)
Schedule 4, which defines OFCOM’s objectives in setting out Codes of Practice for Regulated User-to-User Services, should be expended to require the regulator to consider the protection of individuals from communications offences committed by anonymous users. (Amdt 106)
Schedule 7 of the Bill should be expanded to include the new offences of False Communications and Threatening Communications, listed in part 10, as priority offences for social media platforms to guard users against. (Amdt 137)