Thursday, 18 April 2024

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Moravian Messenger Articles 2023

November 2023 - The Online Safety Bill

The Online Safety Bill

This legislation has finally passed, on 19th September, all stages in Parliament and is just waiting for Royal Assent before becoming law. You may have seen much of the discussion about this over the past few years: the social media firms and others with interests in having an unregulated internet argued against the campaigners keen to make the internet safe for everyone. To be fair the social media companies started to implement some aspects of this bill a while ago but there was a strong sector who resisted in the name of freedom. However, after much debate both in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, and modifications along the way, the protection of children and the enabling of adults to take more control of their online lives will pass into law.

This Bill holds social media platforms responsible for the content they host. They are expected to act quickly to remove illegal content and stop children seeing material that is harmful to them. If they fail to do this they will receive significant fines from Ofcom, with prison sentences in some cases for the bosses, although we need to wait to see if these are implemented.

There is a zero-tolerance approach to protecting children and young people from inappropriate content. Social media platforms will have to:

  • Remove illegal content quickly or prevent it from appearing in the first place, including content about self-harm.
  • Prevent children accessing harmful and inappropriate material.
  • Enforce age limits and age checking measures.
  • Ensure the risks and dangers are more transparent, including publishing risk assessments.
  • Provide parents and children with clear, accessible ways to report problems online.

This is not without challenges as you can imagine. How do you verify the age of a child?

The empowerment of adults to take control of what they see online is another aspect of this bill. The protection for internet users will:

  • Make sure illegal content is removed promptly.
  • Place a legal responsibility on social media platforms to enforce the promises they make to users when they sign up, through terms and conditions.
  • Offer users the option to filter out harmful content such as bullying, that they do not want to see online.

This all seems reasonable, and you may have thought this already happens, or you may think it restricts your personal freedoms but breaking this law will attract up to £18 million or 10% of global revenue in fines.

There are also sections designed to tackle online fraud, and violence against women and girls. Non-consensual sharing of intimate images could attract a prison sentence of up to six months. There are also clauses to prevent animal cruelty.

Overall, the bill should make the internet a safer place with a regulator who has the power to implement it. BUT technology moves quickly and having this bill does not mean we can stop education about online harms or put measures in place to keep our children and young people safe or be cautious about the way we use the internet. I wonder how long it will be before this needs modification because technology has found a way around it, or new harms have become apparent? For the time being let's celebrate this step forward in protecting children and young people and protecting adults too.

More information available at: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/a-guide-to-the-online-safety-bill

Moravian Messenger Articles 2022

December 2022 - IICSA

IICSA

Over the last 7 years you may have heard the term IICSA in the news. The Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse, led by Professor Alexis Jay, after a slightly wobbly start has finally finished. It was a response to the realisation that many children were being sexually abused and exploited because both State and non-State institutions failed to protect them.
An integral part of the work of the Inquiry was the Truth Project which gave victims and survivors the opportunity to share their experiences of child sexual abuse in an environment that is non-judgemental and safe. They also contributed their ideas for how things could be better and these suggestions were used by the inquiry when setting up their recommendations.
The Inquiry had 15 investigations into a range of institutions including the Catholic Church and the Church of England publishing their findings and recommendations over the years of the inquiry.
The final report was published in October 2022 and should have been headline news but Liz Truss resigned the same day, so it was eclipsed by that news. It was still a major news item. This final report added a further 20 recommendations to the 87 already made. Many of these require action from the Government such as having a statutory requirement for reporting cases of allegations of child sexual abuse, the creation of a Child Protection Authority to inspect any institution working with children and the creation of a Minister for Children at cabinet level.
The inquiry has shone a light onto the way organisations respond to disclosures of sexual abuse, aften very poorly, and urges organisations to be aware of the indicators a child may be being sexually abused and act immediately. Those working with children need to be aware that child sexual abuse can happen anywhere, in any community, and in all social classes and ethnic groups. Listen to what children are saying, whether with words or behaviour and report onwards so the child can get the help and support they need. Only a third of reported cases are reported by the children being abused at the time the abuse is happening. There are many reasons for this but having adults that they trust, that they know will believe what they are being told, that will act on the information in an appropriate way is important to encourage disclosure. As a church, where we like to think we are a safe place, full of people who care, I would like to think we can be open to disclosures. But this is about more than just the children. The culture of the church is so important. Is it a place where everyone is respected, where negative comments are discouraged, where racism and sexism doesn’t exist, and safeguarding is the centre of everything the church does? Is church a place where adults can talk about child sexual abuse without embarrassment if it happened to them? The challenges are not inconsiderable, but the Moravians have never run away from a challenge, let us rise to this one.
Joy Raynor

Church House is the Headquarters of the Moravian Church in the British Province and is located in London at:
Moravian Church House, 

5 Muswell Hill, 
London 
N10 3TJ

Tel:

020 8883 3409

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