Women's safety campaigners launch petition to bolster Online Safety Bill

A petition urging the Government to explicitly include women and girls in the Online Safety Bill has been launched by safety campaigners.

The End Violence Against Women Coalition (EVAW) and anti-online abuse charity Glitch has called for the draft Bill to be adapted to name and recognise the ways online abuse disproportionately affects women and girls.

It cites a range of reports on the issue which have highlighted that women are 27 times more likely than men to be harassed online, while one in five women experience online harassment or abuse and that black women are 84% more likely to receive abuse online than white women.

The petition, which has been published on change.org, has called on the Bill to specifically identify the online abuse of women and girls – including image-based sexual abuse, cyberflashing, deepfakes and other behaviours – and address them.

“This new law is meant to make tech companies step up and act,” EVAW director Andrea Simon said.

“But if the law doesn’t name the problem, then how will tech companies be made to fix it?

“This is a once in a generation opportunity to allow women to be free and safe from abuse in online spaces, and it cannot be wasted. This law must include women and girls within it.”

The Online Safety Bill, which is expected to force the biggest technology firms to abide by a duty of care to users, is currently being scrutinised by MPs and peers.

“Women and girls need to feel free to not only survive in online spaces but also thrive,” Glitch founder and chief executive Seyi Akiwowo said.

“I think it is great that we have a draft law that is looking at regulating tech companies to improve online safety, but there is no mention of women nor gender at all.

“This law must address how women are facing gender disinformation and are being targeted online.”

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