Royal College of Psychiatrists calls for stronger protections against online harm

Statement / comment
19 April 2022

The Royal College of Psychiatrists is calling for the new Online Safety Bill to be strengthened to better protect children and adults from online harm.

Professor Bernadka Dubicka, from the Child and Adolescent Faculty at the Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“As a frontline child psychiatrist, I’m seeing more and more children and young people affected by harmful online content. The Online Safety Bill is a step in the right direction but falls short of protecting those most vulnerable from online harm.

“The new statutory duty of care on social media companies to protect all users from harmful content, addictive algorithms and loot boxes, applies only to the ‘largest and riskiest companies’. It provides no detail on what constitutes harmful content and fails to compel social media companies to share their data with researchers within an agreed ethical framework.

“Anonymised data should be shared with agreed consent processes, so that the potential risks and benefits of social media platforms can be independently assessed, with the aim to develop an evidence-based approach to preventing online harm.

“Social media companies should also fund this research, so that profit from the use of their platforms can contribute to our understanding of their harms and benefits.”

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