Last year the Government announced that it had worked with Internet Service Providers to come up with a voluntary industry agreement to protect children online. It was a great step forward but it can only be really effective if accompanied by robust age-verification for users which is sadly lacking from the industry’s own proposals.
If we rely solely on a self-regulation we will have no long term security. It may be that under intense political and media pressure today the industry will get its house in order, but where will we be in five, ten or twenty years’ time? If it is true, as the Prime Minister has said, that ‘few things are more important than this,’ why is it that we have laws on myriad eventualities but nothing in relation to one of the most important areas currently affecting us and our children?
We believe that self-regulation is not a long term solution and that statutory backing is needed. As you know, we have been supporting Baroness Howe’s Online Safety Bill, which had its second reading in the House of Lords at the end of last year. The Bill, should it become law, would provide the statutory underpinning presently lacking.
However, Baroness Howe’s Bill is a private members bill and, although it received the overwhelming support of all the peers that attended its second reading, the passage of such bills is notoriously precarious unless they are allocated government time.
We are delighted to report that yesterday Baroness Howe put forward an amendment to the government’s Children and Families Bill with very similar clauses to her original Bill. This is a wonderful opportunity to future-proof online child protection moving forward.
The Bill will be debated in the House of Lords on Tuesday 28th January. We understand that the Labour Party will be supporting the amendment and, if the cross bench peers also supported it, there is a very good chance that it could become law.
If you agree that its time the law was used to protect children in the online environment as it is offline please email a cross bench peer and encourage them to attend The House on 28th January and support the Bill.
We have updated our campaign website, www.safeonline.org.uk, to enable you to do this quickly and easily.
Time is of the essence but this is such a wonderful opportunity to have a real influence we hope you won’t want to miss it.