MumsnetGuestPosts (MNHQ) Mon 08-Apr-19 18:21:50

Guest post from the Home Secretary: “The proposals revealed today will help give parents peace of mind”

Today the government published its Online Harms White Paper. Home Secretary Sajid Javid talks about the new proposed laws.

Sajid Javid

Home Secretary

Posted on: Mon 08-Apr-19 18:21:50


Lead photo

“The government has published its Online Harms White Paper, which sets out how to put an end to activity that harms people, particularly children.”

I can’t help but worry about what my kids do online, and I know millions of parents feel the same way.

Tragic stories in the news of online grooming, cyber bullying driving kids to harm themselves and radicalisation through social media apps show the devastating consequences of harmful content online.

A recent survey of Mumsnet users, with the Internet Watch Foundation found that three quarters were worried about ‘unpleasant or aggressive people, trolls and bad language’, and 8 out of 10 worried about children ‘being exposed to sexual imagery or pornography’.

This is why we do our bit to keep an eye on our children - limiting their screen time, using parental controls, warning them about the dangers online.

But now it’s time for the tech companies to do more.

As Home Secretary, I’ve been disgusted by the scale of child sexual abuse online that has been uncovered by our work. It was when I visited the National Crime Agency’s Child Exploitation Online Protection Command last year that the full horror of the evolving nature of child sexual abuse was really brought home to me. Thousands of predatory paedophiles are lurking on popular social media sites, gaming and live streaming platforms, hiding behind fake profiles to attempt to ensnare and groom kids. Shockingly children are being abused on live-streams for as little as £12.

Forums like Mumsnet have allowed people to connect in ways we have never seen before - sharing and learning, laughing and finding comfort in each other. That is how the internet should be: enjoyed, not feared.

The National Crime Agency told me it is one of the most dangerous threats that we face in Britain and as we learn more, so we have to keep stepping up our response.

That’s why I visited the tech giants including Google, Facebook and Microsoft in the States last year to demand that they wake up to this sickening reality and make sure that this kind of activity is not available on their platforms.

Today we have gone one step further to help make sure the UK is the safest place in the world to be online by putting a stop to self-regulation of the internet.

The government has published its Online Harms White Paper, which sets out how to put an end to activity that harms people, particularly children. It also helps support parents in preventing and dealing with online harms including child sexual exploitation and abuse, radicalisation, inciting violence and violent content, encouraging suicide and cyber bullying.

The new proposed laws will apply to tech companies of all sizes, including social media platforms, public discussion forums, messaging services, and search engines.

Companies failing to comply with the new rules will face tough punishment which could include fines and blocking access to their sites overseen by a newly appointed regulator.

Forums like Mumsnet have allowed people to connect in ways we have never seen before - sharing and learning, laughing and finding comfort in each other. That is how the internet should be: enjoyed, not feared.

The proposals revealed today will help give parents peace of mind of knowing their children will be a lot safer online.

If we saw a child being abused or threatened in the street, I know we wouldn’t stand by. We would do something.

Now is the time that we expect the same response online.

Note: You can find out more about the government’s action to tackle Online Harms here. You can also take a look at this factsheet for more information about the White Paper and read this factsheet about terrorist content and child sexual exploitation and abuse online.

The Home Office will respond to some comments and questions this week - we’ll confirm exactly who and when as soon as we can.

By Sajid Javid

Twitter: @sajidjavid

HavelockVetinari Mon 08-Apr-19 18:34:51

I'm really pleased to see this - I hope it works in practice. Only time will tell I suppose, but hopefully the tech giants have taken note that we won't accept their piss-poor attitude and failure to act voluntarily.

madvixen Mon 08-Apr-19 20:38:32

Any steps to protect children are to be welcomed but I have concerns that the Government is looking to penalise companies for allowing content which is not illegal.

Social media can be an echo chamber but legal opinions can be challenged regardless of how unpalatable individuals may find them. Penalising companies for allowing legal, yet offensive content, will lead to these opinions being driven underground where no challenge can be made and allow for extreme views to become the norm.

madeyemoodysmum Mon 08-Apr-19 20:41:01

I really hope this can work. Mi worry about the future for kids that have no limitations put in place growing up and trying to live an adult life after such exposure. I feel this is a massive mental health issue waiting to happen and will wreak relationships and lives. It’s short sighted not to do something in both a humanitarian and monetary move to protect the future.

We need to get this under control

NewWomensMovement Mon 08-Apr-19 21:07:08

It is extremely important platforms take some responsibility for protecting children and vulnerable people from harm, with measures like stringent 'over 18s' areas and so on, instead of landing all the responsibilities upon parents to protect kids in a climate of fast changing technologies that only the most tech-savvy can keep abreast of.

But it is essential any measures are not allowed to gamed by people who want to disrupt us from organising to protect women and children's rights in the way 'hate incident' and 'malicious communications' are currently being abused.

This should be about protecting the vulnerable from harm, not empowering the politically motivated and vexatious to control free speech.

MockerstheFeManist Mon 08-Apr-19 21:20:26

Also concerned about the "not illegal behaviours," and the need to regulate the cyber-security providers bearing in mind the cautionary tale of Cybersitter and Bennett Hailston, a story that has been curiosly redacted from the search engines.

(BH complained that the Cybersitter program was classifying democratic pressure groups as 'Terrorists' and was himself blocked for his troubles.)

mgtow101 Tue 09-Apr-19 12:30:48

I agree, if its not illegal content then I am afraid that its the parents responsibility to police what their children do on the internet. Remember the kids are using an internet connection paid for by the parents on equipment that the parents buy. Both of which probably need credit cards to set up and use. What I am saying is that the kids are using facilities that the parents provide and its up to them to police them. It's no one elses fault but the parents unless they are over 18. Sorry I have just had it up to my back teeth when marxists try to control everything and wrap it up in "but its for the kids!!"


KingHenrysCodpiece Tue 09-Apr-19 15:15:10

No no no no and again no! Please stop policing everything. It is primarily the parents responsibility, not the governments to protect children online, as had been said by a pp, parents provide internet services and pay for them, so they should police them. Unless I'm mistaken, it is still not compulsory to have internet in the home and even then there are ways of limiting internet access. There are apps that can be installed so parents can manage or at least observe their DCs internet actvity. These are available, so I do not understand the need for this action?

My DS is 17 and I refuse to buy him a mobile phone on contract so he has no mobile internet and our computer is in the main living room, he chats to his friends, games and does all work where he is easily observable. This is simply nanny state gone Large and an attempt to police internet by stealth under the pretext that 'its for the children'. Your argument is tantamount to banning cars because some children get run over, or banning all fashion magazines because some children will look at the images and be negatively affected by them. In fact why not start with other forms of media much of which has been negatively impacting young adults and women and their bodies for years? You could start with some of the newspapers to begin with. They could definately do with some cleaning up. Why is it only social media or online media content you're targeting? And why now?

FreshDuck Tue 09-Apr-19 17:28:17

All this will achieve, especially penalising companies for content thats not illegal, is websites blocking UK ip addresses from accessing their sites. Winner for vpns.

Also having lived in China and experienced their love of blocking sites, I worry about how quickly this will creep re blocking sites and the definition of harmful but not illegal will be applied. Especially as for a lot of sites, you won't have the option to fine, as they're not UK based.
The trans debates in the feminist chat? Foreign state news companies? Reddit? Are you going to ban Google because they won't remove not illegal content? But that would be silly, so an exception for bigger companies, but then banning smaller companies for the exact same infraction?
Ti's a dangerous path to go down.

Also judging from current and past attempts to go down this path of regulating the net (Amber rudd and her hatred of encryptions and vpns, without actually understanding them, springs to mind.) A lot of the government seem to have little to no understanding of the Internet or tech companies, which is worrying when you're trying to regulate them.

JazzyBBG Tue 09-Apr-19 21:09:32

Yes I agree parents should supervise but let's be honest we can't supervise everything and some parents won't, does that mean their children should be at risk of predators or radicalisation? If we can stop these things we should. As for the legalities it can be very hard to determine, eg is encouraging someone to eat less to the point they become anorexic illegal? I don't know the answer to that but whether it's illegal or not it's still wrong and if tech companies are letting people abuse their platforms like this they should take responsibility for it.

79problems Tue 09-Apr-19 21:20:14

It’s all very well saying “parents must supervise” but you get the conscientious ones who do and then those from a certain sector of society who don’t. These kids need help.

KingHenrysCodpiece Tue 09-Apr-19 22:26:00

Such is the price of freedom. You cannot go around regulating or banning everything because 'some parents won't' some parents let their children eat sweets all day, should all sweets, chocolate bars, deserts and treats be banned? Some parents let their children watch films way above their age certificate, should we ban all 18 cert films? Some parents let their children have access to porn...ban all porn? Banning doesn't change behaviour. Just like the ridiculous sugar tax will not stop people from eating too much of the wrong foods and doing too little excercise. What we need is better support for parents and education. Banning is lazy, just a way of saying we've given up trying. And as regards protecting children, if this is the measure we're using, imo the ship sailed on that ages ago; adult popular culture has infiltrated childhood and done far more damage to children over the past few decades on the whole. At best, SM
simply augments what has become a pretty toxic atmosphere for children in general, but no government has jumped in over the past decade to impose strict rules and fines on the music, fashion, film, television or PR world. So what is it about SM particularly that makes the government so keen to impose new fines on SM platforms? By this standard, there are a plethora of other things responsible for giving potentially toxic and harmful messages to children which also warrant regulation. So I'm not convinced 'For the sake of the children' is what this government is truly concerned with.

Another point is that many parents themselves show scant regard for their children's privacy online. It is parents putting internet devices in their children's hands at earlier and earlier ages. Some children know internet before they know books, and some are on Facebook before they can give consent. Are there plans to regulate this too, just because some parents do so irresponsibly?

The internet should remain as unofficiated by government as possible. Unfortunately, yes that does mean there is bad with the good.

Victoriapestis Wed 10-Apr-19 10:42:30

This hasn’t put my mind at rest, completely the opposite, because the proposal is to regulate communications that are lawful, as well as those that aren’t. I find it terrifying, because I want my children to grow up in a country where debate is encouraged, not stifled, where they can express their own views and defend them, encounter views they disagree with, and learn to debate and analyse. Because this is what will enable them to be responsible, contributing citizens in a democracy.

If the intention is to force providers to prevent their sites from being used for child pornography, terrorism recruitment and promotion, and glorification of self harm and suicide, we should have legislation aimed specifically at that. Why isn’t this being done?

The only possible reason for this broad brush approach, as opposed to a more narrow, targeted one, is that it is intended to be used to suppress political beliefs that don’t correspond with the prevailing social orthodoxy. Seriously, if the intention was to prevent specific harms, this is what would be consulted on. What is being proposed is much wider.

This approach seems more akin to that used in China than in a democracy. It will permit an unelected regulator to monitor online speech, and suppress it. Do we want this? Really? In the name of protecting our children?

ineedaknittedhat Thu 11-Apr-19 17:43:12

I doubt very much that the government gives a damn about children. They're just using this as an excuse to censor people's speech because they know the population is deeply unhappy at the moment.

BojanaMumsnet (MNHQ) Tue 16-Apr-19 16:38:06

Hi everyone,

Thanks for reading and for your comments! We've got a response from the Home Secretary now.

Home Secretary Sajid Javid said:

“Following the publication of the Online Harms White Paper last week I was pleased to see so many of you engage with its content. It’s a relief to know that you support much of the action we’re taking on removing harmful content online.

“You have, however, raised some very legitimate concerns about freedom of speech, so I would like to take this opportunity to reassure you that the government wholeheartedly supports freedom of expression and is committed to upholding it as a human right.

“As Culture Secretary I defended freedom of the press against state regulation and I have always believed freedom of speech is one of the fundamental liberties on which modern Britain was built, not something bestowed by the government or permitted by an Act of Parliament.

“These measures are not about suppressing opinion, they are about tackling online harms and the damage they can do to people's lives.

“One example of how this would work is in relation to protecting vulnerable people from content encouraging self harm and suicide. Users will rightly continue to be able to talk openly and honestly online about these sensitive topics, but under the new regulatory framework it will be mandatory for companies to take robust action to address content that provides graphic details of suicide methods and self-harming.

“Freedom of expression is at the heart of this approach, and the independent regulator will have to take due regard of freedom of expression and privacy before taking any action against companies that have breached their statutory duty of care.

“We are also consulting on a broader range of sanctions for use in the most serious of circumstances to make sure we get this right, including the ability to disrupt business activities, restricting access to certain services, and holding senior managers of internet companies accountable.

“It is the internet’s freedom and openness that has given it such extraordinary impact, value and reach. We want users to keep accessing the services they enjoy online and at the same time feel safe when doing so.”

Madvixen Tue 16-Apr-19 16:57:32

Hmmmmmmmmmm. The white paper specifically refers to content that is not illegal. While I appreciate the idea around self harming, anorexia, suicide etc, the wording allows for other content to be restricted at the whim of a Government. That is not free speech, that is restricted speech based on the current Governments ideas of acceptability. This is what worries me.

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