Closed petition Repeal Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 and expunge all convictions
Repeal Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 and expunge all convictions of those whom have been prosecuted under this section of the law. As well as acknowledge that the UK internet also shares our respect for peoples freedoms of speech and expression.
Over the last decade, people have been convicted [with record] under the pretents of personally/potentially "grossly offensive" matterial (of which no definition is given) over jokes and petty arguements on the internet via social media and other platforms. It is because of the increase of these cases that a growing number of people are concerned for their own online safety and the devistating real world ramifications under this section of law, that this petition has been created and signed
This petition is closed All petitions run for 6 months
This response was given on 21 May 2021
We are committed to making the UK the safest place to be online while upholding rights to freedom of expression. The Law Commission is currently reviewing harmful and abusive communications online.
Read the response in full
The Government recognises the importance of free speech, particularly in the context of online communications.
Current UK legislation protects the right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). However, this right is qualified and may be restricted in some circumstances, including where there may be a serious intent to cause harm or incite hatred against others.
We are committed to ensuring the criminal law keeps pace with changes in technology, while also taking into account harmful communications online. Against this background, the Government has asked the Law Commission to review existing laws related to harmful and abusive communications online. This review is considering sections 127(1) and 127(2) of the Communications Act 2003 and section 1 of the Malicious Communications Act 1988, determining whether these laws need amending and updating with new offences to account for a range of harms online including pile-on abuse, cyberflashing and self-harm.
Existing communications offences are important for protecting people from criminal activity, including online. However, we recognise that some elements pose problems, including vagueness in terms such as “grossly offensive, “obscene” and “indecent”, which the Law Commission highlights in their consultation paper. The Law Commission’s proposals are therefore an important step towards addressing such limitations.
The Law Commission has now consulted on provisional proposals for reform. They will publish final recommendations by the summer, which the Government will carefully consider. Subject to final proposals, the Government may be minded to take these forward into legislation, where necessary and appropriate to do so. When considering potential reforms, we will guarantee strong protections for citizens from harm while upholding the right to freedom of expression.
Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport
Other parliamentary business
Petitions Committee announce evidence sessions on tackling online abuse
On Tuesday 2 November, the Petitions Committee will hold an evidence session with experts and campaigners as it resumes its inquiry into Tackling Online Abuse.
Watch the session, from 2.15pm on Tuesday 2 November: https://www.parliamentlive.tv/Commons
The session follows evidence sessions in summer 2020 with petitioners Katie and Amy Price, and Bobby Norris, focusing on their experience of receiving online abuse targeted at them and their families.
The Committee is resuming its inquiry following the Government’s publication of its draft Online Safety Bill earlier this year. Tuesday's session will be the first of three sessions the Committee plans to hold over the next month.
Earlier this year, a petition calling for verified ID to be made a requirement for opening a social media account received almost 700,000 signatures in six months. Over 500,000 of those people signed in the weeks following the racist abuse aimed at England footballers after the 2020 European Championships final.
Find all publications related to this inquiry, including oral and written evidence: https://committees.parliament.uk/work/307/tackling-online-abuse/publications/
What is the Committee looking at?
The Committee's inquiry will be focusing on:
The lived experience of people receiving online abuse on social media, particularly in relation to protected characteristics;
Social, regulatory and technological solutions to online abuse – in particular the option of user ID verification and/or restrictions on anonymity on social media; and
The availability and enforcement of legal penalties for online abuse.
In its evidence session on 2 November, the Committee will focus on opportunities and priorities for Government action to tackle online abuse aimed at people as a result of characteristics such as their sexuality, disability, or religion.
It will also consider experts’ perspectives on the Government’s proposals to tackle online abuse through its draft Online Safety Bill, as well as looking at how stronger Government-led interventions to tackle online abuse could affect freedom of speech online.
Find out more about this session on our website: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/news/158217/petitions-committee-hears-from-antidiscrimination-campaigners/
What are evidence sessions?
Evidence sessions are public meetings with experts, officials or people with personal experiences of the topic being examined. Evidence sessions help Committees to understand how Government policies are working in the real world, and what needs to change to make things better.
What is the Petitions Committee?
The Petitions Committee is a cross-party group of MPs appointed by the House of Commons to consider e-petitions submitted on Parliament’s petitions website and public (paper) petitions presented to the House of Commons.
Find out more about the Petitions Committee: https://committees.parliament.uk/committee/326/petitions-committee/
Follow the Committee on Twitter for updates on its work: https://twitter.com/HoCpetitions
You can also sign up to the UK Parliament newsletter for the latest information on how to get involved and make a difference: https://learning.parliament.uk/en/your-uk-parliament-newsletter-sign-up-form/
Petitions Committee publishes report on tackling online abuse and announces debate
On Tuesday 1 February, the Petitions Committee published a new report on Tackling Online Abuse, which examines what the Government can do to help protect social media users from abuse online.
The report is the result of an inquiry by the Committee, in which it heard from petition creators, campaign groups, social media companies, and experts on social media regulation.
Read a summary of the report and its key recommendations to the Government:
The Committee has also scheduled a debate in Parliament on the two petitions which prompted its inquiry, which will take place on Monday 28 February.
Find out more, including comment from Petitions Committee Chair Catherine McKinnell MP:
About the Committee's report
The report looks at how the Government and social media companies can better respond to abusive behaviour taking place online, and address the harm abuse can cause to people who receive it, and their families.
It looks at new laws the Government is planning to introduce in the Online Safety Bill, which the Government has said will help to tackle online abuse.
The report also considers how to ensure people abusing others online are held accountable for their actions, including changes to the criminal law to punish this behaviour, and whether social media users should be required to link their account to a real world identity document.
The report calls on the Government to take action including:
- Fining social media companies that fail to prevent people who have been banned from the platform for abusive behaviour from setting up new accounts
- Requiring social media companies to give their users the option to link their account to verified ID and block interactions with unverified users
- Strengthening the protections for adults in the Online Safety Bill against the risk of facing abuse on social media, in particular for groups of users who are more likely to receive abuse.
Read the full report (HTML): https://publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm5802/cmselect/cmpetitions/766/report.html
Read the full report (PDF): https://committees.parliament.uk/publications/8669/documents/89002/default/
What happens next?
The Petitions Committee has submitted the report to the Government for their consideration. The Government is expected to respond to the Committee's report within two months. Once it’s been received, the Committee will publish the Government’s response on its website and notify petitioners.
Follow the Committee on Twitter for updates on its work: https://twitter.com/hocpetitions
The Government is expected to introduce the Online Safety Bill in Parliament later this year. Once it has been presented in Parliament you'll be able to read the Bill and follow its progress here: https://bills.parliament.uk/
Westminster Hall debate
The Committee has also scheduled a debate on the following petitions relating to online abuse which have received more than 830,000 signatures in total:
Make verified ID a requirement for opening a social media account: https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/575833
Hold online trolls accountable for their online abuse via their IP address: https://petition.parliament.uk/archived/petitions/272087
The debate will take place on Monday 28 February from 4:30pm, and will last for up to 3 hours. You will be able to watch the debate on Parliament's YouTube channel here:
The debate will be opened by Catherine McKinnell MP, the Chair of the Petitions Committee. The Government will send a Minister to respond.
New online safety laws start their journey through Parliament
On Thursday 17 March, the Government's Online Safety Bill was introduced in the House of Commons. This is the first stage of a Bill's passage through the House of Commons and takes place without debate. The Bill now has to go through other stages in Parliament before it becomes law.
The Bill aims to protect the safety of internet users. It proposes that social media companies and other platforms should be legally required to tackle illegal and harmful content and behaviour online. This includes online abuse.
Read the Government's press release:
The Bill also repeals existing laws relating to harmful communications online, and creates new offences to replace them.
To coincide with the Bill's introduction, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Nadine Dorries MP gave a written statement to the House of Commons.
Read the Minister's statement:
About the Bill
The Bill introduces new legal rules, which will apply to online platforms that allow users to post content or interact with each other. It will require platforms to remove illegal material and protect children from encountering harmful content.
The largest platforms, including the most popular social media websites, will also have to say whether they will remove or limit access to some types of content that is legal but harmful to adults. The Government will set out what types of content this will involve once the Bill has become law. It's likely that this will include online abuse.
Ofcom will act as a new online safety regulator and will be able to fine these platforms if they do not meet their new obligations - for example, if they fail to remove abusive content where they have promised to do so.
The Bill also introduces new requirements on platforms to protect users’ freedom of expression, and to give users the ability to appeal if content they have posted is removed without good reason.
Read a factsheet about the Bill:
Petitions Committee Chair response to Online Safety Bill
The Bill's introduction follows the publication in February of the Petitions Committee’s report into Tackling Online Abuse. The Committee called on the Government to strengthen protections for social media users against online abuse.
The Chair of the Committee, Catherine McKinnell MP, has welcomed the Bill's publication but pointed to areas where it could still go further, in line with the Committee's recommendations in its report.
Read the response from the Committee Chair:
A date for the Bill's Second Reading - a debate on the general principles of the Bill - will be announced in due course.
You can keep up to date with the Bill's progress and read a copy of the Bill here:
You can find out more about how a Bill becomes law here:
MPs to begin debating the Online Safety Bill
MPs will debate the Government's Online Safety Bill on Tuesday 19 April in the main House of Commons chamber. The debate should start sometime after 3:30pm, following any ministerial statements or urgent questions and the introduction of a Ten Minute Rule Bill.
You can watch the debate here:
You'll be able to read a transcript of the debate a few hours after it ends:
This is a Second Reading debate, where MPs discuss the general principles of the Bill. It is the first opportunity for MPs to formally debate the proposals included in the Bill. At the end of the debate, MPs will decide whether the Bill can progress to the next stage in the process of becoming law.
Find out more about what happens at Second Reading debates:
About the Online Safety Bill
The Government has said that the Bill will help to protect the safety of internet users, while defending free speech online.
The Bill would create new legal requirements on social media companies and other platforms to address illegal and harmful content and behaviour online. It would also place new requirements on platforms to protect users’ freedom of expression, and to give users the ability to appeal if content they have posted is removed without good reason.
The Bill would also repeal existing laws relating to malicious and harmful communications online, and proposes new offences to replace them.
Read a Government factsheet about the Bill:
Read the House of Commons Library analysis of the Bill:
You can keep up to date with the Bill's progress and read a copy of the Bill here:
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MPs approve new laws which seek to protect users online
On 17 January, MPs approve the Online Safety Bill which will introduce a new regulatory framework to address illegal and harmful content online.
The Bill was introduced by the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to the House of Commons on 17 March 2022.
Read more about the measures included in the Bill in this House of Commons Library Research Briefing.
What happens next?
The Bill has now completed its stages in the House of Commons, and goes to the House of Lords. The Bill must be approved by both Houses before it can become law.
You can keep up to date with progress of this Bill on the Bill's webpage.
The Bill's publication page includes up to date links to explanatory notes and briefing papers, where you can learn more about the measures in the Bill.
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