Refuge responds to Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee report on the draft Online Safety Bill
In response to the release of the report, Jessica Eagelton, Refuge Senior Policy and Public Affairs Officer, said:
‘Refuge is grateful to the DCMS Committee for the release of their timely report, and for the opportunity to feed into it, by giving expert evidence, along with other Violence Against Women and Girls (VAWG) organisations.
Last year, Refuge launched its ‘Unsocial Spaces‘ campaign, which calls for robust regulation of social media to better protect women and girls from online abuse and harassment. Refuge is pleased that the DCMS Committee has heard, and listened to, our concerns that the draft Online Safety Bill in its current form will fail to address many forms of online VAWG. The draft Bill makes no references to women or VAWG, yet our research has shown that more than one in three UK women (equivalent to 11 million women) have experienced online abuse on social media or another online platform rising to a staggering 62% of young women.
These figures should be a wakeup call to government and tech companies and serve as a stark reminder that much more must be done to safeguard women and girls online. That is why Refuge is particularly pleased that the DCMS Committee has concluded in its report today that some types of VAWG should be in scope of the Bill as ‘harmful content,’ or criminalised, and that a dedicated VAWG code of practice could help improve the response of social media companies to online VAWG. Refuge urges the government to take this recommendation on board.
The Online Safety Bill will soon come before Parliament for its first reading. Refuge hopes the government will note the Committee’s findings, and ensure the Bill presented to Parliament includes explicit references to protecting women and girls from online violence and abuse.
Refuge stands ready to work with the government, as the country’s largest single provider of specialist domestic abuse services, and the only frontline organisation with a specialist tech abuse team, to ensure the Bill is as strong and robust as possible for women and girls.’
For more information or to arrange an interview contact the press office on email firstname.lastname@example.org
Read Refuge’s Unsocial Spaces report here.
Refuge supports thousands of women and children on any given day, and runs the National Domestic Abuse Helpline, which is the gateway to accessing specialist support across the country. More than one in four women in England and Wales experiences domestic abuse at some point in their lifetime, and two women a week are killed by a current or former partner.
Please signpost to Refuge’s National Domestic Abuse Helpline 0808 2000 247, available 24 hours a day 7 days a week for free, confidential specialist support. Or visit www.nationaldahelpline.org.uk to fill in a webform and request a safe time to be contacted or to access live chat (live chat available 3pm-10pm, Monday to Friday). For support with tech abuse visit refugetechsafety.org.