Online Harms: NSPCC Wild West Web Campaign

Thank you for contacting me about the NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign.

While being online can be a hugely positive experience for children, we have to be alive to the dangers. I believe it is vital that we do all we can to protect our children from the negative impacts the online world can have.

The Government fully recognises the importance of tackling online harms, including content harmful to children. That is why the Online Harms White Paper, jointly published by the Home Office and DCMS last year, sets out plans for world-leading legislation in this area.

As championed by the NSPCC, the Bill will establish a new duty of care on companies towards their users, which will be overseen by an independent regulator. In its initial response to the consultation on the White Paper, the Government has stated it is minded to appoint Ofcom as the regulator. This will make companies take more responsibility for the safety of their users and tackle harm caused by content or activity on their platforms. The regulator will have powers to take effective enforcement action against companies that have breached their statutory duty of care.

Under these proposals, companies would be required to take stringent action – proactive and reactive – to monitor and address growing and evolving threats and to tackle all manifestations of Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (CSEA) activity, including bearing down on the proliferation of imagery and taking steps to target grooming and live streaming. The Government has also committed to produce an interim code of practice to tackle CSEA online. This code will set out steps that companies can take to tackle CSEA on a voluntary basis, ahead of any regulatory system introduced following the proposals in the Online Harms White Paper.

In addition, the Government will be developing an online media literacy strategy. This strategy will lead to a coordinated approach to online media literacy education and awareness for children, young people and adults. Online media and digital literacy can equip users with the skills they need to spot dangers online, critically appraise information and take steps to keep themselves and others safe.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.

Craig Whittaker MP

April 2020