Online Safety Bill campaigners join forces to urge next Prime Minister to prioritize new legislation |  UK News

Online Safety Bill campaigners join forces to urge next Prime Minister to prioritize new legislation | UK News

A group of campaigners, survivors and families affected by abuse on social media have written to the Tory leadership candidates to urge the next Prime Minister to prioritize the Online Safety Act.

Danielle Armitage is one of those who have signed the open letter addressed to the candidates.

She was only 14 years old when she was groomed while playing an interactive online game for kids.

The man claimed to be 16 years old, but he was actually in his late 40s at the time.

Ms Armitage, who has waived her anonymity to warn others about what happened to her, told Sky News that “he only arranged to meet me after school”.

“I got into his car and discovered he was much older than he said. I just froze from that point,” she said.

He drove Ms Armitage to a forest and that’s when the first sexual assault took place.

More about the Online Safety Bill

The situation “escalated”, and subsequent assaults became more violent.

Ms Armitage said: “He said if I spoke out or told anyone he would threaten my family. I felt I had to see him again.”

She added: “By coming together and speaking out, we want the next prime minister to know that what happened to us was avoidable.

“It’s in their hands to protect our children and make sure there are safeguards in place for children using the internet.”

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March 2022: What is the Cyber ​​Security Act?

Campaigners are calling on Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to resist calls to water down the planned internet security laws and commit to delivering them without delay.

The bill was scheduled to go through parliament before the summer recess, but due to competing demands in the chamber, it has now been delayed until a new prime minister is in place.

It aims to regulate social platforms, to ensure they protect their users from harmful content, with fines and other potential penalties for those who fail to do so.

Certain groups are concerned that the bill will damage freedom of expression and enable censorship, while others believe it does not go far enough to curb the spread of harmful material online.

In their letter, the campaigners said it was “outrageous” to see some opponents of the bill “rejoicing in this delay and calling for the legislation to be scrapped entirely”.

The coalition consists of 15 survivors of foster care and sexual abuse, and parents of children who died by suicide after viewing harmful content online.

“We have long campaigned for laws to better protect children online and were frustrated and disappointed to see the Online Safety Act delayed rather than going through Parliament last month,” the letter said.

“For every month the legislation is delayed, the NSPCC says we will see more than 3,500 online child sexual abuse cases. These offenses have increased tenfold in just a decade. And bullying, pro-anorexia posts, harmful self-harm and suicidal content continue to fill children’s streams.

“This level of harm to children would not be accepted in any other industry, which is why the next Prime Minister must make the Cybersecurity Act a national priority and pave the way for urgent regulation to begin.”

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Concerns have been raised by experts on all sides of the debate surrounding the bill following changes in government and ministers with different priorities overseeing the legislation.

In their letter, the campaigners insisted that Truss or Sunak must go ahead with the bill.

“Should you become the next Prime Minister, we urge you to keep the promise made to children and families and deliver a robust cybersecurity bill in full and without delay,” they said.

“Any dilution of the bill would be unacceptable and break the commitment to children and families in the Conservative Party manifesto to deliver the strongest possible protections for children online.”

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