The Pensions Committee has completed and published its report on online abuse today revealing that while disabled people are enthusiastic users of social media, they are being driven away from platforms while the users who abuse them go unchecked and unpunished.

The inquiry, which was triggered by a petition started by Katie Price whose son Harvey, who lives with multiple complex disabilities, has faced significant abuse on social media which has mostly gone unchecked. The petition also spoke of online abuse directed at people from all backgrounds, and called on the Government to “make online abuse a specific criminal offence and create a register of offenders.”

In their conclusion, the Pensions Committee have agreed that the current laws are not fit for purpose in their handling of online abuse, which the Committee heard can destroy people’s careers, social lives, and cause lasting damage to their health.

The report concludes that the Government must accept that the self-regulation of social media has failed and that social media companies must consult with disabled people in order to adequately move forward in creating digital strategy and hate crime law.

It also challenged social media companies allowing toxic environments to exist unchallenged – an issue that pervades Twitter as the platform is constantly challenged for its lack of willingness to suspend or ban users who engage in targeted harassment.

The Parliamentary Committee also highlighted the issue of disability hate crime not being taken seriously, and its perpetrators not being appropriately punished as a result.

Committee Chair, Helen Jones MP, said: “Our inquiry into online abuse and the experience of disabled people has shown that social media is rife with horrendous, degrading and dehumanising comments about people with disabilities. The law on online abuse is not fit for purpose and it is truly shameful that disabled people have been forced off social media while their abusers face no consequences.

“There is no excuse for the continued failure to make online platforms as safe for disabled people. Self-regulation has failed disabled people and the law must change to ensure more lives are not destroyed.”

The full report can be read here.

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Source: PR
Image: Flickr/Stacey MacNaught

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