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UK government announces new online safety body

The UK Council for Internet Safety has an expanded scope to tackle digital abuse and will inform future policy development

The government has created a body to tackle online abuse in the UK and to support new policies focused on that objective.

The UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) is replacing the UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), with the expanded aim of enhancing internet safety for all citizens and inform the development of the forthcoming Online harms paper, announced in April.

Areas of focus for UKCIS will include online harms experienced by children, such as cyber bullying and sexual exploitation, radicalisation and extremism, violence against women and girls, hate crime and hate speech, and forms of discrimination against groups protected under the Equality Act – for example, on the basis of disability or race.

Organisations on the UKCIS executive board (see below) include TechUK, Internet Watch Foundation, Internet Matters, the National Crime Agency and big tech companies Google, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Microsoft, as well as the main UK internet service providers (ISPs) on a rotating basis.

Membership will be periodically reviewed to ensure relevance to the Online harms spectrum the government aims to tackle.

The UKCIS executive board is jointly chaired by ministers at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), Department for Education and the Home Office, as well as representatives from the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  

The UKCIS executive board consists of the following organisations:

  • Apple;
  • BBC;
  • Childnet;
  • Children’s Commissioner;
  • Commission for Countering Extremism;
  • End Violence Against Women Coalition;
  • Facebook;
  • GCHQ;
  • Google;
  • ICO;
  • Independent Advisory Group on Hate Crime;
  • Internet Matters;
  • Internet Watch Foundation;
  • Internet service providers and mobile operators (rotating between BT, Sky, TalkTalk, Three, Virgin Media, and Vodafone);
  • Microsoft;
  • National Police Chiefs’ Council;
  • National Crime Agency – CEOP command;
  • Northern Ireland Executive;
  • NSPCC;
  • Ofcom;
  • Parentzone;
  • Scottish Government;
  • TechUK;
  • Twitter;
  • UKCIS Evidence Group Chair;
  • UKIE;
  • Welsh Assembly.

The Online harms whitepaper sets out the government’s plans for online safety measure. Consultation on the proposals ran from 8 April to 1 July and the DCMS is currently analysing the feedback that was received.

The proposals were greeted with criticism from organisations including TechUK, whose head of policy Vinous Ali said at the time of launch that delivering the framework set out in the Online harms paper would “not be easy and will not be achieved if difficult problems and trade-offs are ignored”.

“Some of the key pillars of the government’s approach remain too vague,” Ali said at the time.  

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