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Clifford Chance

Clifford Chance

Briefings

The UK is changing the internet

17 February 2020

Online content is changing society. People need protection – but will law really do that?

The UK's child protection agency estimates that, on average, an online abuse offence against a child was recorded every 16 minutes in England and Wales. That is around 90 cybercrimes against children every single day. Hate can permeate online spaces, and technology can propagate it in a way that simply wasn't possible before the advent of the internet, allowing it to grow and become more harmful.

The internet, therefore, is not a safe place. But nor is the world at large.

American activist, Cameron Kasky, used online platforms to advocate against gun violence. On the one hand, social media and the internet helped him to develop support. But it also exposed him to virulent hate speech and threats of graphic violence. Kasky, speaking to The Washington Post, said "People say horrible things to me: That's their right. And I just have to sit there and take it."

For Kasky, online harm is just as inevitable as playground bullying. Except the internet is so vast that maybe nobody will ever see it or do anything. Playground bullying is not tolerated and parents and teachers do everything they can to prevent it, but the internet poses infinitely more complex challenges than a playground.

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