UK Prime Minister Theresa May has been criticised for failing to push through a controversial online harassment bill, after a consultation.
Key points:The controversial law, known as the ‘Conduct for Change’ law, has sparked protests, online petitions and a petition to ban the law from the UK.
Online petitions and online petitions to ban new lawOnline pressure group The Stop Online Harassment Coalition (SOHC) has called for a review of the lawThe law is expected to be debated in Parliament in the coming daysThe bill was originally proposed by the Conservative Party to combat online harassment, but has since attracted strong opposition from civil liberties groups, human rights groups, internet service providers and campaigners.
The law was introduced in September last year after allegations that a young man was sexually assaulted on a subway train by two men.
The bill is set to come before Parliament on Thursday for debate.
The bill’s controversial nature is likely to come under heavy scrutiny by both the public and the media, with the UK’s Chief Justice describing it as a “dangerous law”.
“The UK is facing a serious threat to our democracy, our freedom of speech, and our freedom to hold politicians to account,” Chief Justice Michael Martin said in a statement.
“We will now have to look again at this law, which has the potential to undermine the democratic process.”‘
A very difficult time’ for campaigners It comes just months after the British government was criticised for not pushing through a new online harassment act in May, after complaints from activists that it was being used to suppress dissent online.
That bill was scrapped after it was made clear that it did not have the support of a majority of MPs.
Opponents of the new bill say it has not addressed the issues of online harassment and has not provided the necessary safeguards for people who are being targeted online.
“It is a very difficult and very difficult period for anyone who is a member of the public, especially in the UK, who has experienced the effects of online bullying,” SOHC co-founder Dr Julie Bindel told BBC News.
“This has been an issue for years now, but this has really been a major issue in terms of how this has been handled in the last two years, which I think is just as important as the law itself.”
The bill will also come under fire from civil rights groups and online campaigners, who are calling for it to be scrapped.
“The Government needs to make clear to the public that the online harassment Bill will not be used to silence political opponents,” Sarah Champion, policy manager at the campaign group Campaign for Justice, told the BBC.
It is time to get on with the job’It has been reported that the bill has had its own online petition calling for a debate on its merits.””
It needs to protect everyone in the country who is being harassed online, not just politicians.”‘
It is time to get on with the job’It has been reported that the bill has had its own online petition calling for a debate on its merits.
“In the run-up to the debate, petitions are being posted to all websites, including Twitter and Facebook,” Sohc said.
“However, this petition has not yet been turned in to the Government and we need to see that the petition is turned in so that it can be taken forward.”
‘It’s a difficult day’ for activistsSOHc says it has already received more than 1,300 comments on its petition, and that a further 6,000 people have joined it.
“I am so incredibly grateful for all of the support we have received,” Dr Bindel said.
“We have had a wonderful response from people who have come together to speak out against the new law.”
Now is a time for all our activists to get back to the work that is needed, because this is a difficult time for them.
‘The UK should have more laws to tackle online abuse’Campaign for Justice UK’s head of policy, David Bannister, said it was important that the UK “had more laws on the books to protect the rights of all who use the internet”.””
This is a sad day, because the internet is still a place where we can say whatever we want without fear of being called racist, homophobic, sexist or violent,” Dr Binder said.
‘The UK should have more laws to tackle online abuse’Campaign for Justice UK’s head of policy, David Bannister, said it was important that the UK “had more laws on the books to protect the rights of all who use the internet”.
“These new laws are needed to protect online expression, but there is still much work to be done before this can be properly implemented,” he said.