Sunday, 04 Dec 2022

UK government criticised for failing to protect children from online harm

UK government criticised for failing to protect children from online harm


UK government criticised for failing to protect children from online harm

The Observer understands from sources close to the discussions that hugely controversial and sensitive changes to the online safety bill were to have been announced to parliament this week by the culture secretary, Michelle Donelan, after ministers across government had been consulted in recent days.

Donelan, who was appointed as secretary of state for digital, culture, media and sport less than three weeks ago by Rishi Sunak, has already been warned by officials that the entire online safety bill will run out of parliamentary time and therefore fall completely, unless it is accelerated on to the statute book by the spring.

Such a failure to legislate would be seen as a disaster by online safety campaigners, and represent a huge failure of the government machine.

Critics of the proposed changes argue, however, that this would still seriously weaken the protections for children in the bill, because many children lie about their ages to gain access to adult sites.

A recent survey by Ofcom found that one in three children lie about their ages to access adult content on social media. So under the planned changes children who successfully faked their ages would still be able to access content that was judged legal but harmful even for adults.

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