Online Harms Bill is a watershed moment - your views


Online Harms Bill is a watershed moment

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, online grooming crimes in Scotland were more that 30% higher when children were not at school compared with the same months last year.

The NSPCC has been calling for legislation to protect children from grooming, abuse and harmful content online, since 2017. After years of campaigning, on December 15 the UK government announced the framework for a future Online Harms Bill that has the potential to provide much greater protection for children when they use the internet.

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This is a landmark moment – a major step towards legislation that can make an enforceable legal Duty of Care on tech companies a reality. For too long children have been exposed to disgraceful abuse and harm online.

Social media companies will have a duty to protect young users from child abuse and harmful content online and face fines of up to £18 million or 10% of their global turnover if they fail.

But that doesn’t mean that the work we do stops now. For instance, the proposals fall short of ensuring criminal sanctions against named directors whose companies fail to uphold their Duty of Care.

Child protection and children’s voices must remain front and centre of regulatory requirements. We have set out six tests for robust regulation – including action to tackle both online sexual abuse and harmful content and a regulator with the power to investigate and hold tech firms to account with criminal and financial sanctions. Failing to pass any of the six tests will mean that future generations of children will pay with serious avoidable harm and sexual abuse.

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We will now be closely scrutinising the proposals against those tests. Above all, legislation must ensure Ofcom has the power and resources to enforce the Duty of Care and be able to identify and then take appropriate action against tech firms that fail.

Joanna Barrett, Policy and Public Affairs, NSPCC Scotland.

Why are churches safer than theatres?

We are at a loss to under-stand why churches and other places of worship are allowed to remain open during level 4 restrictions, especially when typically elderly church goers are most at risk. Similar demographic minorities such as theatre or café goers could surely make identical claims to community needs.

If only they too could lobby from unelected seats in The House of Lords.

Neil Barber, Edinburgh Secular Society, Saughtonhall Drive.

Nuclear power is best way to keep lights on

While it is excellent news that the prime minister has green-lighted the construction of the new nuclear power station Sizewell C, it does nothing to solve the cold equation that the cost of electrical energy is four times that of the same amount of energy from gas.

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What a policy of building nuclear power stations can ensure is security of supply. If we follow that route, then we will not need to solve the difficult and expensive problem of mass storage of electrical energy.

More important than Sizewell C or Hinckley Point C is the development of modular nuclear reactors by a consortium led by Rolls Royce. The production line approach to the manufacture of these smaller reactors offers both much faster construction and much lower costs.

As we run down our base-load electricity generating capacity we have no alternative but to go nuclear or the lights will go out. However, the fact that electricity costs four times what gas does means that mass fuel poverty is inevitable if we decarbonise.

Otto Inglis, Cowdenbeath.

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