The Online Safety Act is only one step towards ending online abuse – and its effective enforcement is vital
Glitch welcomes the formal approval of the Online Safety Bill and the introduction of the Online Safety Act. We are especially proud that the Online Safety Act specifically names women and girls as a result of our campaigning. Together with the End Violence Against Women Coalition, and with the support of BT and EE Hope United, we mobilised over 100,000 people to ensure the violence women and girls face daily online was not ignored. The amendments we secured to The Online Safety Act reflect a vested and determined interest to end online abuse, and we stand with other organisations working to end violence against women and girls, hopeful that our hard work in Parliament and beyond is put to effective use.
While we welcome the new legislation, the Act does not go far enough to protect against racism and hate speech, nor the particular venom directed at Black women and girls online, among other challenges. Our concerns also reflect the historic and ongoing ineffectiveness of the law when applied, if at all, in instances of violence against women and girls, as well as the increasing societal inequalities and tensions that encourage such violence in the first place – online and off.
We join many other organisations in calling for a public health approach to ending online abuse, because without a robust, intersectional and holistic approach to ending online abuse, the violence that women and girls encounter daily online will not improve. It is therefore vital that the guidance and recommendations that Glitch and other charities continue to put forward are taken seriously, and that the spirit of collaboration that has made the Online Safety Act possible is sustained, as we bring about its effective implementation. This Act, like any other, is only as strong as its enforcement.
As political parties continue to draft and promise policy positions ahead of the anticipated UK General Election, we encourage all who are impacted by online abuse (that’s everyone) to ask their representatives how they plan to dignify and honour the lives of women and girls in the UK, especially Black women and girls, who continue to bear the brunt of online abuse. As our Digital Misogynoir Report revealed, 20% of all posts on social media about women are toxic, with an increased toxicity when those posts referred to Black women. The report also found that where online abuse against Black women is thriving, so is antisemitism, Islamophobia, transphobia and white supremacist rhetoric. If Black women are not safe online, no one is.
Effective enforcement of the Online Safety Act is of paramount importance to our work. Glitch and our partners have marshalled the resources available to us to hand deliver solutions to problems we did not create, to leaders who have been unable or unwilling to protect women and girls from completely preventable harm. As we have demonstrated throughout the life of the Online Safety Act to date, we have the will and influence to mobilise concerned digital citizens to action and we will continue to sound the alarm, hold tech corporations and government accountable, and provide tools and resources that awaken and equip digital citizens to demand the tech safety standards we deserve.
Symbolic protection is of no use to women and girls in the UK, or anywhere. The Online Safety Act is only one step towards ending online abuse for good. We are standing by to work collaboratively with Ofcom, politicians and civil servants across various governmental departments to ensure the Online Safety Act is implemented effectively, so that women and girls, and especially Black women and girls, are protected and enabled to thrive online.
We have our work cut out for us as we continue on our mission to end online abuse for good – work we can’t do without your support.
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