The UK government’s plan to enact the UK Online Safety Bill is a pivotal opportunity to tackle online abuse against women and girls. Online violence against women and girls takes a variety of forms including the growing crisis of online sexual exploitation and abuse. When announced, this Bill set out its aim to make the UK the ‘safest place in the world to be online’. If this Bill continues to ignore the huge impact that gender-based online abuse has on women and girls in the UK, not only will the government not achieve its aim of creating world-leading legislation in this area, but this will also be a huge, missed opportunity to bring an end to a serious and widely prevalent form of violence against women and girls.
Equality Now worked alongside the Centenary Action Group, Glitch, EVAW Coalition, Antisemitism Policy Trust, Inclusion London, Stonewall, Compassion in Politics, Women’s Equality Party, The Traveller Movement, Women’s Aid Federation of England (Women’s Aid), #NotYourPorn, Imkaan, Girlguiding, The Jo Cox Foundation, End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW), Womankind Worldwide, Tell MAMA UK and Julia Slupska, Oxford Internet Institute on this briefing to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on the Draft Online Safety Bill which was established to consider the government’s draft Bill.
Summary of Recommendations:
1. Include specific measures to address online harms against women and girls and those with multiple protected characteristics, including women in political and public life, and treat online harms as equally serious as in-person harm.
2. Ensure joined-up working between the Online Safety Bill and other relevant UK Government workstreams, including the Online Media Literacy Strategy, the Violence Against Women Strategy, the Domestic Abuse Strategy, and the recommendations from the Law Commission’s review on Hate Crimes, including misogyny and reforms to protect victims of online abuse and safeguard freedom of expression.
3. Retain ‘legal but harmful’ as a category of harm, requiring platforms to use systems and processes to reduce the amplification of such content.