18:25 GMT16 June 2021
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    UK digital minister Margot James, suicide prevention minister Jackie-Doyle Price, and Education secretary Damian Hinds have made pledges to tackle online abuse, citing concerns over self-harm and the need for online consent "from a very young age".

    Three UK officials have jointly vowed to "force" social media websites like Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to uphold safety rules after 14-year-old Molly Russell committed suicide in 2017. Russell, 14, had posted content on her Instagram account containing images of self-harm prior to her death, and her parents have demanded government action to tackle suicidal online content.

    Ms. James will meet with Facebook and plans to discuss a statutory "duty of care" on social media firms. Another meeting between UK health secretary Matt Hancock and Instagram CEO Adam Mosseri will take place on Thursday. 

    A Digital, Culture, Media and Sport spokesperson said that social media companies "clearly need to do more to ensure they are not promoting harmful content to vulnerable people," adding that a white paper will set outline "their responsibilities, how they should be met and what should happen if they are not." 

    Safer Internet Day Conference 2019 and Child Online Safety 

    The joint statement comes on the heels of the Safer Internet Day, which has gathered over 2,000 organisations to discuss topics and deliver activities for the event.

    Will Gardner OBE, Director of the UK Safer Internet Centre, said in a press release that while sharing content online was "an integral part of everyday life for young people," research showed that "without clear guidance for navigating the complexities of online consent, the gap between young people's attitudes and behaviours is striking. 

    "Safer Internet Day provides a unique opportunity to address this gap, by listening to young people's experiences, leading by example, and encouraging conversations about our online lives," he said. 

    Mr. Gardner also said that it was vital "from an individual to an industry level" to support young people in understanding their rights to online consent, adding that communities "must move beyond advising them only on what they should do online, and work with them to understand how to do this in practice." 

    "In doing so, we can empower young people, and those that support them, to be better able to harness and use the positive power of the internet for good." 

    READ MORE: 'Facebook Has Become Very Politicised' – Online Privacy Advocate

    Education Secretary Damian Hinds said: "We are making Relationships Education compulsory in all primary schools and Relationships and Sex Education compulsory in all secondary schools, to sit alongside the existing Computing curriculum. Teachers will address online safety and appropriate behaviour in a way that is relevant to pupils' lives."

    "The Government is committed to keeping children safe online," Home secretary Sajid Javid said. "We are working closely with the technology industry to make the internet a safer and more responsible place." 

    Data Wars and The Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill 

    Despite making concerted efforts to crack down on online offences, MPs came under fire after they granted a third reading to the Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill on Wednesday, allowing UK authorities access to data from tech giants in overseas servers, as well as facilitate data exchanges with foreign governments, including Five Eyes nations, or the UK, Ireland, Canada, Australia, and US, and could potentially be used to override existing data protection laws.

    Journalists and NGOs have slammed the new legislation as evasive and paving "the way for the Home Office to surrender up the content of our electronic communications to foreign governments", National Union of Journalists' general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said on Tuesday.


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    suicide, Five Eyes, suicide prevention, internet censorship, Internet governance, internet, Crime (Overseas Production Orders) Bill 2018, Safer Internet Centre, UK Department of Health and Social Care, UK Home Office, Ministry of Education and Science, Will Gardner OBE, Damian Hinds, United Kingdom
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