Information provided by CARE

Information provided by CARE on 14 May 2013, the day of the Bill’s first reading


Protected offline, but exposed online, says Baroness Howe


Today Baroness Howe of Idlicote will introduce legislation intended to protect under-eighteens from adult content online. Welcomed by internet safety charities, her new Online Safety Bill has its First Reading in the House of Lords today. 


Baroness Howe explained the hypocrisy of our current child protection laws and the importance of her Bill proposing web filtering on the basis of age-verification:


“If we really care about children then we must not shy away from using the law to protect them online, as we do very properly offline.”


“It makes no sense that children are prohibited by law from accessing adult content offline but that no parallel regulatory framework exists online. If we value children and recognise that it is not appropriate for children to access adult content offline then the same must apply online – and yet, all too often, it doesn’t.”


Critical of the Government’s current approach to internet safety, the Crossbencher life peer is proposing a statutory approach to protecting children from adult content online. She said:

“While I recognise that the Government has shown an interest in addressing this challenge, it is far from clear to me that their voluntary approach is working or is likely to.”


“It is interesting to note that, prior to 2005, children’s charities drew attention to an increased incidence of children gambling online. The industry agreed that this was a problem. Very little happened to address the problem until the online gambling providers were required to introduce online age verification by law, courtesy of the 2005 Gambling Act. The 2005 Act established a very important precedent that my Bill builds on in relation to other adult content.”


The Online Safety Bill has received an enthusiastic welcome from charities working to promote internet safety for children.


Dan Boucher, Director of Parliamentary Affairs from the charity CARE, said:


“We are facing the reality that children across the UK have easy access to sickeningly abusive images and content online, from violent pornography to websites promoting self-harm. The internet giants are not doing enough to stem this tide of harmful material so greater demands must be made of them by Parliament. Baroness Howe’s Bill provides a critical opportunity for Parliament to compel mobile phone operators and internet service providers to take responsibility for their inaction in what would be a major step towards greater internet safety for children.”


Miranda Suit, Co-Chairman of the charity Safermedia, responded to the Bill’s plans:


“Baroness Howe's Bill contains effective and well-thought-out measures which will keep children much safer whenever and wherever they are online. The Bill's opt-in ISP level filter would provide the best protection from increasingly violent and abusive pornography, which should not be left to self-regulation.  After several years of raising the alarm, Safermedia is delighted to see vital legislation on this issue.”