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16th Jan, 2023

Now is the time to act on Online Safety Bill

We are calling on the government to take decisive action on the Online Safety Bill, as the Bill re-enters the report stage in the House of Commons.

The Online Safety Bill has been under discussion for the best part of 5 years. This Bill has been delayed for far too long and we are in danger of losing all the progress made in recent years.

We would like to see action delivered soon and in a timely fashion.

The changes that this Bill seeks to bring about are increasingly crucial to our society and action needs to be taken sooner rather than later.

We would like to see this Bill passed no later than May, even if the current Parliamentary term ends in November.

In addition to a timely introduction, we would like to reiterate our other key asks from the Bill and its amendments in the report stage and beyond:

Restore risk assessments:

The requirement to conduct a risk assessment for harmful adult content has been removed and we would ask for it to be restored.

We are not sure how the third shield can be assessed for effectiveness unless some form of formal or informal risk assessment takes place.

We are also unsure how Ofcom or the platforms can become aware of new and emerging threats without it (for example, the emergence last year of audio and video DMs rather than purely text or emoji-based abuse of footballers).

Default 'on' for hate filters:

We believe that any user tools for the third shield should be switched on by default for discriminatory abuse so that people only see that content if they decide they want to opt in to see it.

Our justification for this is based on consumer protection, so the way in which consumers access the settings needs to be made easier and more transparent for consumers (try even finding, let alone changing, your settings on Facebook).

Why is the Online Safety Bill needed?

Online discriminatory abuse is a serious problem across sport, from the grassroots to the professional level.

The rising levels of online discriminatory abuse in sport is concerning, with victims being not just players but also their families, referees, coaches, pundits, fans and others.

The abuse is not virtual, it is real and it harms real people. The Online Safety Bill is crucial to achieving change and creating a new era of transparency and accountability online.

Although the internet has transformed our lives for the better, tech firms have not been held to account when harm, abuse and criminal behaviour have been amplified by their platforms.

It is time for change and therefore we have welcomed the intent of the Online Safety Bill to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online. 

We shall continue to work with parliamentarians from across all sides of both Houses to achieve that aim and to protect the people who play, watch and work in football from the harmful impacts of a normalised culture of casually violent abuse.