Government outlines next steps to make the UK the safest place to be online

The Prime Minister has announced plans to review laws and make sure that what is illegal offline is illegal online as the Government marks Safer Internet Day

• New review launched into online laws
• Code of practice will set new standards for online platforms
New guide for teachers to develop children’s online safety skills

The Prime Minister has announced plans to review laws and make sure that what is illegal offline is illegal online as the Government marks Safer Internet Day.

The Law Commission will launch a review of current legislation on offensive online communications to ensure that laws are up to date with technology.

As set out in the Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper, the Government is clear that abusive and threatening behaviour online is totally unacceptable. This work will determine whether laws are effective enough in ensuring parity between the treatment of offensive behaviour that happens offline and online.

The Prime Minister has also announced:

• That the Government will introduce a comprehensive new social media code of practice this year, setting out clearly the minimum expectations on social media companies

• The introduction of an annual internet safety transparency report - providing UK data on offensive online content and what action is being taken to remove it.

Other announcements made today by Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Matt Hancock include:

• A new online safety guide for those working with children, including school leaders and teachers, to prepare young people for digital life

• A commitment from major online platforms including Google, Facebook and Twitter to put in place specific support during election campaigns to ensure abusive content can be dealt with quickly – and that they will provide advice and guidance to Parliamentary candidates on how to remain safe and secure online

DCMS Secretary of State Matt Hancock said:

"We want to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online and having listened to the views of parents, communities and industry, we are delivering on the ambitions set out in our Internet Safety Strategy.

"Not only are we seeing if the law needs updating to better tackle online harms, we are moving forward with our plans for online platforms to have tailored protections in place - giving the UK public standards of internet safety unparalleled anywhere else in the world."

Law Commissioner Professor David Ormerod QC said:

"There are laws in place to stop abuse but we’ve moved on from the age of green ink and poison pens. The digital world throws up new questions and we need to make sure that the law is robust and flexible enough to answer them.

"If we are to be safe both on and off line, the criminal law must offer appropriate protection in both spaces. By studying the law and identifying any problems we can give government the full picture as it works to make the UK the safest place to be online."

The latest announcements follow the publication of the Government’s Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper last year which outlined plans for a social media code of practice. The aim is to prevent abusive behaviour online, introduce more effective reporting mechanisms to tackle bullying or harmful content, and give better guidance for users to identify and report illegal content. The Government will be outlining further steps on the strategy, including more detail on the code of practice and transparency reports, in the spring.

To support this work, people working with children including teachers and school leaders will be given a new guide for online safety, to help educate young people in safe internet use. Developed by the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS, the toolkit describes the knowledge and skills for staying safe online that children and young people should have at different stages of their lives.

Major online platforms including Google, Facebook and Twitter have also agreed to take forward a recommendation from the Committee on Standards in Public Life (CSPL) to provide specific support for Parliamentary candidates so that they can remain safe and secure while on these sites. during election campaigns. These are important steps in safeguarding the free and open elections which are a key part of our democracy.

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