We are currently experiencing network problems with the desktop version of Police Oracle. We hope to have these resolved as soon as possible.

Safeguarding experts condemn putting online safety Bill on hold

Policing leaders and campaigners have rounded on officials and ministers for dropping internet safety legislation.

News that the Online Safety Bill was being put on hold was treated with dismay by child protection leads and the force in charge of countering fraud.

The Bill was dropped by government business managers with a pledge that it will be brought back in the autumn when there is a new Prime Minister is in place.

It was axed as there isn’t enough time to debate it before the summer recess, and ministers had been told to expect a battle over censorship with its own backbenchers.

The legislation would have increased the legal duty on tech firms to deal with harmful material linked to exploitation and do more to cut the huge amount of fraud which is increasingly web-enabled.

Merseyside’s Deputy Chief Constable Ian Critchley, who is one of the country’s senior figures in child safeguarding reacted: “Really disappointing news and this must be prioritised at the earliest opportunity to ensure those companies that create billions from creating online communities fulfil their legal and morale obligations to keep all children safe.”

In a rare public intervention into national politics, the City of London’s Police Authority Board issued a heavily critical statement.

The City of London Police receives 800,000 reports of fraud every year and it had been campaigning with range of industry bodies for fraud and paid-for advertising to be included in the Bill.

Fraud is an under-reported crime, and reported losses were around £2.3bn in the last financial year.

As well as substantial financial loss, it causes significant harm to victims of crime, many often highly vulnerable - and that harm is life-changing.

Chair James Thomson, said potential victims of fraud were being let down.   

“This delay is a huge setback for victims and will lead to even more people being duped by online scammers,” he said.

“The Online Safety Bill is urgently needed to protect people from becoming victims of online fraud. It is vital that this Bill becomes law as quickly as possible to protect the public.”

 He too said the tech industry was being let off.

“We must urgently ensure that social media and technology firms prevent their platforms from being used to commit fraud, and are pro-active in tackling it.”

Civil rights activists have claimed the legislation went too far.

But welfare campaigners said the legislation was needed to protect vulnerable people with measures such as introducing legislation to stop material promoting suicide.

The Samaritans said: “This is really disappointing, we don’t have time to lose.”

Former Children’s Commissioner for England and Wales, Anne Longfield, said: “Every day this bill is delayed leaves kids to spend hours a day in a digital world without the protection against harm we know is necessary and expect in the rest of their lives. Even the tech companies know self-regulation hasn't worked.”

Leave a Comment
View Comments 2
In Other News
Consumers group calls for return of Online Safety Bill
Enhanced version of Police CyberAlarm tool launched
Community order for response officer over indecent images of children
Hertfordshire’s victims of fraud hub extended after pilot
Under-age knife sale penalties set to increase to £1m
The impact of online abuse and harassment
More News