Lord Morrow aims to strengthen online protection through Private Members Bill

DUP Peer Lord Morrow will bring a Bill before the House of Lords tomorrow (Friday) for its Second Reading. The Bill would require the Government to commence Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017 by 20th June 2022.

By Lord Morrow of Clogher Valley Peer

Part 3 of the Digital Economy Act would ensure children are protected from online pornography by the introduction of age verification and allow a regulator to ask internet service providers to block websites that contain illegal extreme pornographic material.

Lord Morrow said, "The Digital Economy Act received Royal Assent in April 2017 yet almost five years after legislation was passed the Government continues to fail in their obligation to intoduce these powers protecting women and children.

Children have increasing access to internet enabled mobile devices and research commissioned by the British Board of Film Classification has shown that children as young as seven or eight are stumbling across and watching pornography. More than half (51%) of 11 to 13 year olds reported they had seen pornography at some point. There is growing acknowledgement of the problem, but no progress towards action.

"The Government's inaction has severely impacted children". That was the view of a report from the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee published last July. This is not an issue being pursued in the UK alone but also by legislators in Canada, France Germany and the United States.

Part 3 of the DEA also provided a regulator with robust power to deal with extreme and violent pornography. There link between that kind of content and violence against women and girls cannot be ignored. Just last spring Sarah Everard was brutally murdered by a man who was addicted to this type of pornography that would be blocked by Part 3. The impact this type of content has on violence against women has been recognised yet action has not been taken.

The Government have previously said the Online Safety Bill will fix this problem, but that Bill as currently drafted does not deal with either of the measures contained within my proposal. There simply is no certainty that the Online Safety Bill will properly address these measures and is not expected to be implemented until at least 2024. We should not leave children and women without protection when there is legislation already on the statute book which simply needs to be implemented."

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