Shropshire Star

West Mercia's elected police boss welcomes progress of Online Safety Bill

A law that is planned to protect vulnerable social media users from harmful and illegal content has passed its last Parliamentary hurdle, a step welcomed by the region's elected policing boss.

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PCC John Campion

The legislation was passed in the House of Lords on Tuesday and is set to come into force later this year.

John Campion, the Police and Crime Commissioner in West Mercia, said: “I welcome the long-awaited Online Safety Bill becoming law, with this the latest step forward to fighting online crime and the harm caused by criminals."

Mr Campion's region includes Shropshire and he added: "As part of my Safer West Mercia Plan, I am committed to putting victims and survivors of crime first, including the often-vulnerable online community which is made up of a high percentage of children and young people.

“It’s brilliant news for communities across West Mercia to see the bill becoming law, helping to keep the public safe online by cracking down on harmful and illegal content.

"It is an area of society where law and law enforcement hasn’t kept up to date with technological advances so I am pleased action is being taken to resolve this.

“I want to ensure no one becomes a victim of crime and I am assured the Online Safety Bill is a massive step forward to keep the public safe on the internet. I will continue to use my powers to ensure West Mercia Police has the tools and resources needed to implement the legislation around the new law."

The Government says the bill is taking a zero-tolerance approach to protecting children and makes sure social media platforms are held responsible for the content they host.

If they do not act rapidly to prevent and remove illegal content and stop children seeing material that is harmful to them, such as bullying, they will face significant fines that could reach billions of pounds. In some cases, their bosses may even face prison.

Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan said it is "an enormous step forward in our mission to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online."

Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC chief executive, said: "It is a momentous day for children and will finally result in the ground-breaking protections they should expect online."

Social media companies will have to make sure illegal content is removed, and the bill places a legal responsibility on social media platforms to enforce the promises they make to users when they sign up, through terms and conditions.

If social media platforms do not comply with these rules, Ofcom could fine them up to £18 million or 10 per cent of their global annual revenue, whichever is biggest – meaning fines handed down to the biggest platforms could reach billions of pounds.

Also added to the bill are new laws to decisively tackle online fraud and violence against women and girls.

The bill now goes to the King to receive Royal Assent.