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Those who encourage serious self-harm could be jailed for five years

This new offence will be created following a recommendation from the Law Commission in 2021.

Encouraging someone to cause serious self-harm is set to become a crime, regardless of whether victims go on to injure themselves or the perpetrator doesn't know who they are targeting.

Additions to the Online Safety Bill will make this an offence, with those convicted liable to face up to five years in jail.

Prosecutors will have to prove the communication was intended to encourage or assist serious self-harm amounting to GBH, while encouraging someone to starve themselves or not take prescribed medication will also be covered.

The Online Safety Bill, which is currently at the committee stage in the House of Lords, places a raft of new responsibilities onto social media companies in a bid to better protect people online.

Among these is the legal obligation to remove illegal content quickly or prevent it from appearing in the first place - including content promoting self-harm.

Social media companies will also be required to assess how their platforms could allow abusers to create anonymous profiles, and take steps to ban repeat offenders and prevent them from creating new accounts.

Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, Alex Chalk KC, said: "There is no place in our society for those who set out to deliberately encourage the serious self-harm of others. Our new law will send a clear message to these cowardly trolls that their behaviour is not acceptable.

"Building on the existing measures in the Online Safety Bill our changes will make it easier to convict these vile individuals and make the internet a better and safer place for everyone."

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