Samaritans responds to the Government's new online harms announcement
“The internet can be an invaluable source of support for people experiencing self-harm and suicidal feelings, but it can all too easily expose vulnerable users to content that glorifies and promotes suicide and self-harm.
“Samaritans welcomes the Government’s announcement today that there will be a new legal duty of care to protect online users from illegal content, however we are concerned that the proposed regulation will not effectively tackle suicide and self-harm related content, which is often legal but harmful.
“We fear that requiring only platforms with the largest numbers of users to address legal but harmful content such as suicide-related content will push the problem into different places online rather than tackling it comprehensively.
“Whilst we agree that there needs to be a proportionate approach that recognises the scale and scope of platforms, we feel that it is essential that those sites and forums that may be small, but highly dangerous do not fall through the net. Government must ensure that its work with the Law Commission on the encouragement of self-harm by individuals with malicious intent works alongside platforms’ duties to ensure adequate protections in this area of online harm.
“This regulatory framework is an important step towards creating a suicide-safer internet, but we hope that the Government doesn’t miss this crucial opportunity to tackle harmful suicide and self-harm content. Samaritans’ new guidelines for the technology industry provides a blueprint to support sites on creating safer online spaces including turning off algorithms that push harmful content related to self-harm and suicide, as well as removing detailed instructional information on methods.
“But we are pleased that the new framework has recognised the importance of creating mechanisms for the regulator to hear directly from people with lived experience. It’s vital that this includes those with lived experience of suicide and self-harm, as well as people affected by other online-harm related issues.”
Jacqui Morrissey, Samaritans Assistant Director of Research and Influencing