The Online Safety Bill has been going through parliament over the past year and is in its final stages now, as it nears Royal Assent. The legislation is intended to protect people online and hold social media companies to account.
We hope this new Bill will protect those experiencing domestic abuse and work with existing legislation to consolidate and improve knowledge of domestic abuse and the various forms it takes.
Aims of the Bill
The Bill is a new set of laws designed to protect children and adults, helping to keep them safe online by placing a greater responsibility on social media companies to regulate their platforms.
It aims to remove illegal content and filter harmful content, as well as giving users greater control over the content that they see. It will also work to tackle those who are abusive online, particularly repeat offenders using multiple accounts.
The Bill has already passed through the House of Commons and is now in the House of Lords where it is being scrutinised and amendments are made. Once it passes this phase, it will receive Royal Assent and become law.
The Bill has a considerable amount of support, particularly recognising the fact that it will make social media companies responsible for protecting the users of their platforms.
However, some campaigners believe that it could go further, especially when it comes to recognising the link between online stalking and harassment, and domestic abuse. These online behaviours are often a continuation of abuse that is happening offline, and we would like to see them considered in this way, rather than something entirely separate.
An amendment has been tabled in the House of Lords to include a new Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Code of Practice, which would be written into the Bill. This is specifically to address the harms that social media causes women and girls, ensuring platforms are doing all they can to protect them.
Domestic Abuse & Social Media
We are increasingly seeing social media used as a tool by perpetrators to continue to control their current or ex-partner. It is far too easy for perpetrators to stalk and harass their victims online, which has even led to some survivors coming off social media entirely – particularly with flimsy online regulations meaning perpetrators often avoid consequences for their actions.
Research from the domestic abuse charity Refuge found that 1 in 3 women in the UK had experienced online abuse, with 1 in 6 of those experiencing the abuse from a current or former partner. This is why legislation is desperately needed and must work to protect women and girls, keeping them safe when using social media.
Support must go further and cover the wider ways in which technology (trackers, smart televisions and other appliances such as video doorbells) is being exploited by perpetrators.
Leeway provides regular Domestic Abuse Awareness training sessions for individuals, businesses, and organisations, to help them spot the signs of domestic abuse and confidently respond to it. We also provide bespoke sessions to meet the specific needs of an organisation. For more information, visit our Training page.