At Samaritans we believe it's important to create a suicide-safer internet for everyone, while still making sure the support the internet provides remains available.
Why is the Online Safety Bill so important?
The internet has the potential to be a powerful tool for suicide prevention. It can provide a space of belonging, offering an opportunity to connect with other people who have similar experiences. One study of an online peer support forum found almost a third of participants experienced a decrease in the intensity of their suicidal thoughts through these interactions.
On the other hand, there’s also suicide or self-harm content online that can be harmful, such as detailed information on how to take your own life. While suicide and self-harm is complex and rarely caused by one thing, in many cases the internet is involved: a 2017 inquiry into suicides of young people found suicide-related internet use in 26% of deaths in under-20s, and 13% of deaths in 20–24-year-olds.
The importance of the internet’s role in suicide prevention means it’s vital for online platforms to take responsibility for both protecting supporting spaces and preventing harmful content. The Online Safety Bill is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make sure this happens.
What are our calls?
Samaritans is calling on the Government to:
- Protect people of all ages from suicide and self-harm content that’s legal but extremely harmful – on both large and small online platforms.
- Make it illegal to encourage or assist serious self-harm with deliberately malicious intent – and make this a priority in the Online Safety Bill.
What’s the latest update?
After multiple delays, the Online Safety Bill has passed through the House of Commons and has now gone over to the House of Lords where Peers will debate and vote on further changes.
Campaign Win: On 26th November, the Government announced that one of these changes will include making content that encourages someone else to self-harm illegal. This has now been included on the face of the Bill and will become law.
Action Needed: Unfortunately, the Government has removed any requirement for online platforms to tackle content for adults that’s harmful, but not actually illegal, and has instead replaced this with ‘user empowerment’ tools.
“It’s fantastic to see the Government has heeded our calls to criminalise encouraging self-harm online. This is a big step forward in making the internet a safer place for everyone; however, tackling illegal suicide and self-harm content in the Online Safety Bill is only half the job. It’s vital that dangerous content that is still legal but incredibly harmful is regulated through the law and keeps people of all ages protected.”
Julie Bentley, our Chief Executive
How can you help?
Is your MP supporting our campaign already? Find out now using our simple online tool – and either thank them or ask them to support using our easy template action.
Update: our amazing campaigners have spread the word to 617 out of the UK’s 650 MPs! Why not check now to see if your MP has already agreed their support?
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The campaign so far
Every part of the Samaritans movement has worked hard to get us this far – thank you!
In 2019, hundreds of you told the Government they needed to make sure the draft Online Safety Bill prioritised suicide and self-harm.
When the draft Bill was published in 2021, it still wasn’t strong enough to tackle harmful content online. Samaritans’ supporters, volunteers and people with lived experience stepped up and demanded the final draft was improved.
Watch the video below to see how everyone worked together to achieve this.
Since then, we have engaged with branches and supporters who wrote to their local MPs, and continue to work with politicians from all parties to have our voice heard in Parliament.
- Read our report: Towards a suicide-safer internet
- Read our January 2023 polling showing the public disagree with the Government removing online protections for people aged 18 and over
- Read the evidence we submitted to the public bill committee in December 2022, setting out our current concerns about the removal of regulation of legal but harmful suicide and self-harm content
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