The EFL joins the FA, Premier League, Kick it Out and other football authorities in welcoming the Online Safety Bill and hope that it will receive strong support from MPs during this week’s Second Reading in the House of Commons.
Online abuse is a serious issue in football, from the grassroots and throughout the professional game, and the EFL commends the Government for bringing forward this world-first legislation to create a safer online environment and hold social media companies to account.
Collectively, we are pleased that the Government has listened to the views of football’s authorities and strengthened the Bill in a number of important areas, including:
- Hate Crime: we welcome the designation of Hate Crime as priority illegal content on the face of the Bill, which means that platforms have an active duty to minimise exposure to such content;
- Anonymity: we welcome the new anonymity provisions, which mean that ID verification must be offered as an option and users will have greater control over who can contact them and what they see online;
- Communications offences: we are pleased that the Government has accepted the Law Commission’s recommendations to reform the communications offences to include threatening and harassing behaviour online more clearly and that these will be included in the Bill.
This legislation is a promising first step towards creating a new era of accountability online and the EFL offers its support to the Government, parliamentarians, and Ofcom on the ongoing task of developing the secondary legislation and safety guidelines.
We are pleased that the Government recognises the importance of transparency and would urge Ministers to ensure that the Bill sets out minimum levels and categories of information that will need to be provided each year as part of the transparency reporting requirements; and that Ofcom has the ability to share reporting information.
Although hate and discrimination are not currently the subject of a specific code of practice, we are keen to work closely with the Government and Ofcom on this very important issue. We want to ensure that experiences and voices of victims of online abuse provide critical insight and influence the creation of Ofcom’s guidelines.
We would like to thank the Government for engaging with English football during the drafting of this important piece of legislation and we look forward to working with them closely as the Bill progresses through Parliament over the coming months.