Now more than ever, social media and the internet are hugely influential on our young people. I was proud to sit on the Draft Online Safety Bill Committee, which will enable ground-breaking legislation designed to protect young people from some of the worst effects of social media.
The Online Safety Act has now been given Royal Assent.
Issues of self-harm and suicide such as the tragedy of Molly Russell’s death have been highlighted to me through my work in Parliament and through the national media. Following the conclusions of the inquest into her death, it was determined that Molly died from an act of self-harm whilst suffering from depression and the negative effects of online content. In February 2023, I attended a powerful event in parliament hosted by Molly’s family, showing some of the horrific images and videos that she saw before her death, romanticising self-harm and leading her down a dark path.
The legislation introduces ground-breaking laws to protect some of the most vulnerable in our society online, particularly children. As you may know, the Government strengthened and enhanced the legislation as it was progressing through Parliament. For example, the Act now requires platforms to clearly explain in their terms of service the measures they use to enforce age verification where a minimum age is specified, and publish summaries of their risk assessments for illegal content and material that is harmful to children. The Children's Commissioner will also be named as a statutory consultee for Ofcom in its development of the codes of practice to ensure that the measures relating to children are robust and reflect the concerns of parents.
The Act takes a zero-tolerance approach to protecting children by making sure the buck stops with social media platforms for content they host. It does this by making sure they remove illegal content quickly or prevent it from appearing in the first place, including content promoting self-harm. The legislation also empowers adults to have better control of what they see online.