The Online Safety Bill presents an opportunity to address violence against women and girls in its digital dimensions and hold accountable the tech platforms that profit from this abuse. But if the new law passes in its current format, it will leave women and girls facing violence and the threat of harm in their everyday online interactions.
We’re calling for government to introduce a Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) Code of Practice to accompany the Bill, so that tech companies that fail to address abuse perpetrated on their platform are held to account, and to ensure they take proactive steps to prevent VAWG in a comprehensive and systematic way.
The VAWG Code of Practice sets out how the regulator will recommend tech meets their legal obligations to identify, respond to and prevent violence against women and girls on their platforms.
Currently, there are no legal requirements on tech companies to take action against VAWG, and it is done on a voluntary basis – meaning survivors face inconsistency and usually a lack of responsiveness when reporting abuse.
Introducing a VAWG Code of Practice would create safer online spaces for women and girls – spaces where action is taken to prevent abuse, perpetrators and the platforms that ignore this abuse face consequences, and our self-expression is not restricted by the threat of violence.
Rebecca Hitchen, Head of Policy and Campaigns at the End Violence Against Women Coalition, said:
“The End Violence Against Women Coalition has been working with Carnegie UK, Glitch, NSPCC, Refuge, 5Rights and academics Lorna Woods and Clare McGlynn to develop a VAWG Code of Practice that meets the rights and needs of women and girls, including those who experience discrimination and inequality on the basis of their race, sexuality, disability, and other characteristics.
The government now has an opportunity to implement this and follow through on its promises to create a safer internet. We have worked with a range of stakeholders to ensure that a VAWG Code of Practice is a comprehensive, robust and workable, and asserts a clear expectation on tech companies as to how they should prevent and respond to violence against women and girls. We now expect to see government deliver on commitments to address violence against women, in both its offline and online dimensions.”
Join us next Wednesday, 18th May to hear from Maria Miller MP, Baroness Nicky Morgan and other speakers about survivors’ experiences and why this is so important for women’s rights, online and offline. Sign up here