The Online Harms Bill and the Internet User

1. The Online Safety Harms Bill provides the greatest power to impose British parliamentary internet governance attitudes on Social Media Companies through the independent watchdog Ofcom.

2. Ofcom have created a taxonomy of illegal and legal but harmful features that social media companies must provide risk assessments on or risk being investigated, Ofcom have the ability to demand interviews and data, or deducted of 10% of profits. The taxonomy of harm includes hate crime, encouraging or assisting suicide, offences relating to revenge and extreme pornography, harassment and stalking, and incitement to and threats of violence. 

3. These risk assessments will be made available to the public through transparency reports providing great new levels of data for researchers, campaigning charities and most importantly the user. The information provided in these transparency reports will be based on the taxonomies of online harms provided by Ofcom. 

4. The Government will not be making an ombudsman for the internet user to make complaints about the practice of social media companies. Instead the government has encouraged the use of site to user complaints processes, many of which are already in operation and very likely fail to offer the support and redress that victims of online abuse or cyber stalking may experience. If the user wants to make complaints towards Ofcom this will need to be through an ‘eligible’ body as defined through the principles set by the Home Secretary. The absence of a working ombudsman means we will need a charity who will take on complaints from the internet user and make suggestions towards Ofcom. The government’s suggestion that social media users, many just children, go to the courts to take on multibillion pound American silicon valley companies is a complete fantasy somewhat suggestive of a failure to understand the power these companies have over children and young people. In the absence of a complaints system I’m not sure how Ofcom will have the ability to effectively evaluate the social media complaints procedure. There is a worrying level of good faith involved.

5. Ofcom will provide annual reports on the use of technology towards Parliament.

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