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11 Oct 2017

UK Government launches Internet Safety Strategy to make Britain the safest place in the world to be online

The Culture Secretary, Karen Bradley, has today announced a range of proposals to ensure Britain is the safest place in the world to be online, as well as the best place in the world to start and grow a digital business.

In the past year, almost one fifth of 12-15 year olds encountered something online that they ‘found worrying or nasty in some way’ and 64% of 13-17 year olds have seen images or videos offensive to a particular group.

But this doesn’t stop with young people - nearly half of adult users also say they have seen something that has upset or offended them on social media.

The Government’s new Internet Safety Strategy sets out a high level of ambition on how we must all collaboratively play a role in tackling the issues of online harm, whilst still embracing and maximising the opportunities that the Internet provides. The strategy is underpinned by three principles:

  • What is unacceptable offline should be unacceptable online - the government and police will work together to establish that behaviour online is matched to those offline, i.e. it is no more acceptable to bully, insult and threaten on the Internet than it is in the street or classroom.
  • All users should be empowered to manage online risks and stay safe - we all need to work together to give UK citizens the knowledge and tools they need to stay safe online.
  • Technology companies have a responsibility to their users - technology companies will work with the government to prevent harmful behaviours and content.

These principles have formed the basis for the actions outlined in the green paper, and require the government, industry, parents and communities to work together:

  • A new social media code of practice to see a joined-up approach to remove or address bullying, intimidating or humiliating online content
  • An industry-wide levy so social media companies and communication service providers contribute to raise awareness and counter internet harms
  • An annual internet safety transparency report to show progress on addressing abusive and harmful content and conduct
  • Support for tech and digital startups to think safety first - ensuring that necessary safety features are built into apps and products from the very start.

Smoothwall’s Online Safety Ambassador Claire Stead comments on the new plans to improve online safety:

“Proposals in the Government’s 'Internet Safety Strategy' are a necessary step in the increasing battle we face in keeping safe online. As we become a more digital society, it is inevitable that we are going to need measures in place to ensure wellbeing online is protected. Online abuse, cyberbullying and exposure to pornography are becoming some of the most concerning issues of this generation, and we can start to tackle this at schools. It’s encouraging to see plans about online safety taught alongside issues such as sex education and other ‘life lessons’ – it’s part and parcel of children’s lives these days and instead of preventing access to the web, we need to ensure a balance of embracing the internet but warning against the potential risks. As the web has become the norm in classrooms, teachers and staff have a responsibility to make sure pupils are protected from online dangers and ensure that incidents don’t go undetected or unnoticed.

“Children often see protection such as web filtering as an irritant and try to get around it. Schools and staff need to be ahead of this, and ensure they have the knowledge and tools needed to protect children fully, digitally enabling them without risking their safety. Training teachers on the fundamentals of online abuse isn’t enough, however; schools also need a smart, proactive approach to content filtering and monitoring. While it’s not possible to completely eradicate problems such as cyberbullying, sexual abuse and radicalisation, if schools have both the smartest web filtering and monitoring in action, they then have a solid foundation from which they can protect children from all kinds of nasty threats online.”

For more information on how to stay safe online, visit our Online Safety Zone. Alternatively if you would like to find out how Smoothwall can help your organisation stay safe online, get in touch today.

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