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Online Safety Bill is not a magic wand, says youth engagement agency

#SaferInternetDay – An Online Safety Bill is not a ‘magic wand’ that will protect children and young people from explicit and harmful material, the founder of a youth engagement agency aiming to tackle the issue said today.

Anisa Morridadi, the CEO and Founder of Beatfreeks, is working on the and YouTube-backed online safety campaign Be Internet Citizens.

Beatfreeks has been campaigning for improved online safety for the last nine years and Anisa said the Online Safety Bill, which includes legislation for porn websites in the UK to be legally required to verify the age of their users, was long overdue.

The Bill is expected to be introduced to parliament over the next few months and is designed to protect users from harmful content.

“We live in a digital age where everything from education to our social lives is conducted online, meaning that a huge proportion of young people’s lives are lived in online spaces,” said Anisa. 

“While that can be hugely beneficial, it also has its dangers. Studies show that half of 11-13 year olds have been exposed to pornography. That is shocking and just goes to show how vulnerable young people can be. Not only that, but it shows just how vital this legislation really is.

“The announcement of enhanced regulation around online pornography is a huge step forward and something that we hope will offer young people much more protection against exposure to potentially harmful explicit material.”

As well as being able to fine websites that do not follow the rules, the regulator Ofcom could block them from being accessible in the UK.

The bosses of these websites could also be held criminally liable if they fail to cooperate with Ofcom.

Previously, only commercial porn sites that allowed user-generated content were in the scope of the Online Safety Bill, but all commercial porn sites will now be covered.

“While we wholeheartedly support the introduction of the Online Safety Bill, it’s important to remember that it isn’t a magic wand and young people still need a proper understanding of how to keep themselves safe in online spaces,” said Anisa. “Through our Be Internet Citizens programme, we’re doing just that. 

“We’re not only giving young people the skills and the knowledge they need to safely navigate potentially difficult topics like online discrimination, fake news and sexually explicit material but we’re also educating teachers to ensure that they too have the tools to help their students. 

“This isn’t about putting the onus on young people, it’s everyone’s responsibility to keep each other safe online and we hope that these new rules announced as part of the Online Safety Bill will be a catalyst for widespread change.”

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