“Likely to cause harm” trolling must be addressed in Online Safety Bill - Lockhart

Upper Bann MP Carla Lockhart has said indications that the Government is moving to address “legal but harmful” posts on social media is welcome, but must be backed up with legislative provisions in the Online Safety Bill.

By Carla Lockhart MP

Upper Bann

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The DUP MP said:

“So much of the abuse posted by trolls online is, in the eyes of the law, legal comment. That does not mean however it is posted without the intention to cause someone hurt, to damage them, and in some instances to encourage others to “pile on” with further abuse. For the victims of such posts, this can cause real distress and the removal of such posts from platforms can be difficult, if not impossible.

The Minister bringing forward the Online Safety Bill, Chris Philip, has this week indicated that the Government is now looking closely at this issue. This is a welcome shift in approach and working with MPs of like mind, we have kept this issue to the fore in discussions with the Government.

I am meeting the Minister again next week and this issue is very much one that I will seek further clarity on. Some further exploration in terms of defining harm is needed - a balance must be found with freedom of speech and freedom of expression.

The Government must also accept that this requires a larger global discussion which forces billionaire social media companies to stop fake accounts. There must be a proper verification process to ensure people are who they say they are. They will protect children and future victims from abuse. Social media platforms insist on identity verification when the accounts are monetised, therefore they can easily do it for non-monetised accounts.

This is a milestone piece of legislation and it must be got right, offering the maximum protection to internet users. Not to address content that is likely to cause harm would be a missed opportunity and a failure to address one of the greatest online harms we see today.”

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