Online safety bill needs tougher rules on misogyny, say peers

Nicky Morgan and other Tory peers plan amendment to boost Ofcom’s powers to penalise social media firms

Tougher rules are needed to target misogyny online as part of the online safety bill, a group of peers has said.

Under the online safety bill, which is being finalised, social media firms will be legally required to abide by their terms and conditions, which generally bar misogynistic abuse. Failure to enforce them will result in fines and their services could be blocked by Ofcom, the online watchdog.

However, a group of Tory peers including Nicky Morgan, Gabrielle Bertin and Helen Newlove, a former victims’ commissioner, plan to put forward an amendment that would make the law go further.

The amendment would give Ofcom the power to fine social media companies up to 10% of their global turnover if they failed to abide by a code outlawing online misogyny.

The Labour party is expected to back the amendment.

Speaking of the proposed amendment on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Saturday, Lady Morgan said: “Women are 27 times more likely to be harassed online, and unfortunately, without that regulation we are allowing misogyny to flourish in plain sight and women are being driven offline.”

The peers said they believed the government’s plans for new offences including cyberstalking and sharing intimate images, such as revenge porn, do not go far enough and will fail to stop online misogynistic abuse that, while legal, harms women and girls.

Lucy Powell, the shadow culture secretary, told the Telegraph the bill had been “severely weakened” by the removal of provisions on legal but harmful content, which had left “viral misogyny free to proliferate”.

“At the very least, Ofcom should have the power to set codes of practice for platforms, to ensure their systems and processes are not actively pushing people towards content that promotes violence against women and girls,” she said.

A potential draft code of practice for the online companies has been drawn up by campaign groups including the NSPCC, the 5Rights Foundation, Refuge, End Violence Against Women and the Carnegie Trust, which conceived the original duty of care concept behind the government’s online safety bill.


Tobi Thomas

The GuardianTramp

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