In an ambitious move to become the safest place online, the UK government is discussing an Online Safety Bill that will introduce a new framework to tackle harmful online content. The Victims' Commissioner undertook research to better understand the experiences of online abuse victims. Consequently, this research aims to highlight and help to understand the issues that victims of online abuse think the Online Safety Bill should be addressing.
The research surveyed over 500 victims' experiences, with 91% of respondents indicating that the abuse impacted them in some way.
- Women are more likely to experience online abuse – and more likely to experience abuse from friends or acquaintances than men.
- Victims report feeling angry and anxious.
- Victims of intimate image abuse reported experiencing the highest levels of harm.
- 40% of cyber-stalking victims say abuse lasted longer than two years.
- Most of the abuse took place on social media, with 60% reporting the abuse occurred on Facebook.
- Although one-third (33%) of respondents said the police recognized the abuse as a crime, one in three (33%) said the police did not investigate the offenses
- Of the 43% who reported the abuse to internet companies, 65% were dissatisfied with the response they received.
The Victims' Commissioner's report concludes with recommendations for better online safety. These include immediate removal of abusive content by internet companies, real people handling complaints rather than bots or algorithms, and specialized training for police officers to better handle online crimes.
The Online Safety Bill will introduce a "duty of care" on large social websites – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat, legally obligating them to protect users from online abuse or face potential fines of up to 10% of their revenues. In extreme cases, non-compliant platforms risk being blocked entirely.
The Online Safety Bill was presented to Parliament in March 2022 and is currently under review.
While the proposed bill is a significant step towards battling online abuse, you can also take proactive measures to protect yourself.
Read more about our identity protection and privacy solutions here.