The Online Safety Bill has been passed in "a momentous day for children"

After years of campaigning, the Online Safety Bill will soon be made a law, and will help protect children from online abuse

  • The legislation will finally require tech companies to make their sites safe for children by design.
  • It marks a new era for children's safety online at a time when online grooming, child abuse image crimes are at an all-time high.
  • CEO Peter Wanless urges tech companies to seize the opportunity offered by regulation.
  • People who have experienced child abuse online tell how the Online Safety Bill will address further preventable harm to countless other children.

Today, the Online Safety Bill has been passed and will soon become a law. This is a ground-breaking piece of legislation that will radically change the landscape for children online.

We have followed the Online Safety Bill during its long journey through parliament, helping strengthen the Bill and make sure it results in regulation that comprehensively protects children online. The Online Safety Bill was published in May 2021, and has been subject to robust scrutiny and debate by MPs, Lords and civil society.

At our 2018 annual conference, the government first promised regulation to help protect children online. Now, after years of campaigning, tech companies will now have a legal duty to protect children from sexual abuse and harmful material on social media sites, gaming apps, and messaging services.

The Online Safety Bill will mark a new era for children’s safety at a time when online child abuse is at a record high, and harmful content on social media is extremely prevalent.

Sir Peter Wanless, NSPCC Chief Executive said:

"We are absolutely delighted to see the Online Safety Bill being passed through Parliament. It is a momentous day for children and will finally result in the ground-breaking protections they should expect online.

“At the NSPCC we hear from children about the completely unacceptable levels of abuse and harm they face online every day. That’s why we have campaigned strongly for change alongside brave survivors, families, young people and parliamentarians to ensure the legislation results in a much safer online world for children.

“Children can benefit greatly from life online. Tech companies can now seize the opportunity to embrace safety by design. The NSPCC is ready to help them listen to and understand the online experiences of their young users to help ensure every child feels safe and empowered online."

In August this year, we released our research that showed that while the Bill was being discussed in parliament in the last 5 years, there has been an 82% rise in online grooming crimes, and a 66% increase in child abuse image crimes.

The Bill has been shaped largely by people who have experienced child abuse online, bereaved parents and young people themselves who have campaigned tirelessly to ensure the legislation leads to real-world change for children.

Louise*, who has campaigned with us after experiencing abuse online as a child, said:

“My abuser was able to gain access to me as a vulnerable 11-year-old girl, and was able to do so from the comfort of his own home in another country via the online world. The abuse lasted until I was 17.

“The effects of his abuse cannot be overstated. I had become so beaten down and traumatised that I attempted suicide on two separate occasions. He robbed me of my teenage years and of the memories I was meant to have.

“It is of the utmost importance that children have voices, both governmental and otherwise, that champion their safety on the internet. Children have the right to be safe online, just as they have the right play safely in parks. We have a duty to protect children in all the spaces they exist.”

The importance of the Bill was also highlighted by the inquest into the death of 14-year-old Molly Russell in September last year, which ruled that self-harm and suicide content that Molly was recommended on social media had contributed to her death.

Ruth Moss, alongside Ian Russell and other parents whose children died following exposure to harmful content online, formed the Bereaved Parents for Online Safety group to strengthen the protections in the Bill.

Ruth Moss said:

"For at least two years, we struggled to keep my daughter Sophie safe online. In spite of removing devices, restricting internet use, implementing parental controls and having conversations about internet safety, these were not enough to prevent her from being exposed to websites that promoted self-harm, suicide and contained dark, graphic, harmful material. Complaining to internet and social media companies was either impossible or futile.

"The impact of Sophie viewing this harmful material was a deterioration in her existing mental health struggles, with devastating consequences. Sophie was 13 years old when she died by suicide. We will never truly recover from her death and it is rightly every parents worse nightmare.

"This Online Safety Bill may not solve all the issues that children have online. But it is essential to start regulating online platforms. They have a duty of care to keep their users safe to the best of their ability."

Members of our Young People’s Board for Change also campaigned strongly for the legislation, meeting ministers and MPs who worked on the Bill on a number of occasions.

Our Young People’s Board for Change, said:

"It is a huge relief now that companies will be legally obliged to keep young people safe online. It empowers us to have the freedom we deserve to use these platforms, whilst still being protected. The online world should always be a safe place for everyone."

The Online Safety Bill has passed and will soon become a law.

This is such an important moment, but our commitment to protect children online doesn’t end with the passing of the Bill, and we will continue to advocate to make sure it results in truly safe online spaces for children.


*All names and potentially identifying details have been changed to protect the identity of the child and/or adult involved.