Home North East New bill needs to hold people to account ‘IRL’, says cyber expert

New bill needs to hold people to account ‘IRL’, says cyber expert

Matt Hewison, CyberWhite

Matt Hewison, a director at North East-headquartered CyberWhite, is urging the government to go further with its proposed Online Security Bill, to ensure real-life consequences for unacceptable cyber behaviour.

The bill, currently in draft form, has come under heavy criticism from the cross-party Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) Select Committee for ‘loopholes’ which could allow harmful images of children and violent conduct to slip through the net.

The bill aims to strike a balance between free speech and censorship, and is described by a government spokesperson as ‘gold standard’ and will result in the UK being ‘the safest place to go online.’

However critics claim that the latest draft doesn’t clearly define what is illegal and doesn’t include harmful behaviours which are currently legal.

Matt Hewison suggests that the bill needs to consider what online behaviours would be considered to be unacceptable in real life, and result in consequences for perpetrators when they occur.

Matt said: “Some activities that happen online are as detrimental to the victims as they would be if they took place in person. For example, many female politicians receive rape and death threats when they speak out on certain issues. If someone physically walked into an MP’s office and threatened to rape her, the police would be involved, and it would be taken seriously. The same should be true when it happens online.

“The growth of technology means that the range of potentially harmful behaviours are growing all the time, and if the government overlooks activities such as deep fakes, the bill may end up being worthless.

“Some online activities, while not illegal, can be harmful, and indicative of future illegal or antisocial behaviour. People who create ‘synthetic’ child pornography or abuse women over Twitter should face consequences, and this may save ‘real life’ victims in the future.

“There is a sense of inhibition created by the anonymity of the internet, but this should be no excuse. If the UK is truly to become the ‘safest place to go online’, this needs to be for all, including our most vulnerable.”