A new Online Safety Act to tackle animal cruelty content and hold social media companies to account will now become law.
With the help of Born Free supporters, the Online Safety Bill completed its passage through the UK Parliament on 19th September and will pass into law as an Act of Parliament shortly. The Act will help stop animal abuse from circulating online and compel social media platforms to remove such content.
The government claims that the Act will make the UK the safest place in the world to be online by placing new duties on social media companies.
Vitally, the new Act will force social media firms to prevent activities that facilitate animal cruelty and torture (such as paying for or instructing torture that is then distributed online). Even if this activity takes place outside the UK but is seen by users here, companies will be forced to take it down.
Responding to the news, Born Free’s Head of Policy Dr Mark Jones said: “The inclusion of animal cruelty content as an offence under the Online Safety Act is a testament to the efforts of certain MPs and Members of the House of Lords, backed by a large number of organisations and individuals including Born Free. I’d like to take this opportunity to thank our supporters who responded to our call to action by writing to Ministers urging them to include animal cruelty content as a priority offence in the new law.”
Online animal cruelty content has been growing at an alarming rate over recent years and was highlighted in reports released recently by the Social Media Animal Cruelty Coalition, to which Born Free contributed. The BBC’s investigation Hunting the Monkey Torturers also served to bring to public attention the terrible abuse suffered by captive primates in the production of online cruelty content, and the harm that such content can do to those who view it, particularly children. These and other revelations garnered public outrage, which in turn helped to convince the government to extend the provisions of the Online Safety Bill.
Mark Jones continued: “Our priority must now be to ensure the new law comes into force and is robustly implemented without delay. Social media companies need to be held to account for ensuring that animal cruelty content has no place on their platforms.”
Image © Aaron Gekoski for Born Free