Today (30th June 2023) the government has announced that it will amend the Online Safety Bill to require Ofcom to publish guidance for tech companies to ensure they reduce risks of harm to women and girls using their platforms. The announcement from the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) also states that the regulator, Ofcom, will need to consult with the Domestic Abuse Commissioner and Victims Commissioner when producing the guidance, to ensure it reflects the voices of victims, as well as the views of experts on this important issue.
The End Violence Against Women Coalition has long campaigned for the Bill to protect women and girls from online abuse.
Responding to the announcement, Andrea Simon, Director of the End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), said:
“Today, we’re pleased to see that the government has finally listened to survivors, expert organisations and over 100,000 members of the public who called for the Online Safety Bill to go further in tackling and preventing violence against women and girls (VAWG).
Today’s announcement confirms that the new law will introduce guidance on reducing the risk of harm to women and girls, and we welcome that the government will consult with the Domestic Abuse Commissioners, Victims’ Commissioner, survivors and experts in its development.
We are clear that the guidance must take a holistic approach, focusing on prevention and tech company accountability – building on what we outline in our proposed VAWG Code of Practice created with Carnegie UK, Glitch, Refuge, NSPCC, 5Rights Foundation, Professor Clare McGlynn and Professor Lorna Woods. We are grateful for the immense efforts of supportive MPs, including Alex Davies-Jones, and Baroness Nicky Morgan for leading these efforts in the Lords with cross-party support.
Together, we have been calling for the Online Safety Bill to mandate a VAWG Code of Practice which would make tech companies explain how they are tackling and preventing violence and abuse of women and girls on their platforms in a comprehensive and systematic way.
While this new guidance does not appear to require platforms to comply in the same way as our VAWG Code of Practice, it is a positive step in the right direction for women and girls’ rights and freedoms online. The proposed law had previously failed to specifically name the online harms against women and girls. We can now say it will, and we will work with government and Ofcom to ensure it is as robust as possible and call on tech companies to ensure the implementation of this guidance ultimately brings us closer to a world in which women and girls are free from violence and abuse.”
Sinead Geoghegan, Communications Manager, firstname.lastname@example.org 07960 744 502