Tory leadership favourite Liz Truss has breathed new life into the Online Safety Bill, insisting it will be dedicated to keeping children safe when they are on the Internet and will not hit freedom of speech.
Truss’ remarks, made during last night’s Tory leadership hustings in Exeter, follow widespread fears that the delayed Bill could eventually be scrapped, with Labour MPs and charities issuing dire warnings over the consequences of such action.
The NSPCC claims even the delay will put more children at risk of grooming and that the magnitude of the problem should serve as a wake-up call to the next Prime Minister.
The move coincides with the publication of a new report showing UK firms working to make the Internet safer are leading the global fight against online harms and are in one of the fastest-growing sectors of the UK tech industry.
The independent report published by the Government reveals that more than 100 companies spread across the UK are creating innovative products and services to make online platforms, apps and websites safer.
They do this, for example, by helping spot illegal content – such as child sexual abuse and terrorist material – by countering online harassment and disinformation, and preventing underage access to inappropriate content.
The UK Safety Tech Sector: 2022 Analysis by Perspective Economics on behalf of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, claims the industry is booming, although compared to other tech sectors it is still tiny, with 117 safety tech firms operating across the UK, an increase of 17 on last year.
And, while the sector’s revenues jumped by 21% last year, reaching £381m, and there was a 30% boost to the number of safety tech jobs in 2021, the total number of people employed in the sector is still only 2,850.
Nevertheless, the report goes on to claim the safety tech sector is on track to grow even further, raising a record-breaking £63m of external equity investment last year.
Meanwhile, according to a second report, Trust, Safety & the Digital Economy, companies that adopt online safety technology also experience overall greater brand trust, higher user engagement and better staff and customer retention.
The study, conducted by Ipsos, Perspective Economics and Careful Industries, looked at six different industries vital to the UK economy, including gaming and entertainment; social media, apps and platforms; media and creative industries; retail and services; digital infrastructure; and the public sector, to understand the business case for investing in online trust and online safety.
Digital Minister Damian Collins said: “Making the online world safer is not only the right thing to do, it’s good for business. UK tech firms are at the cutting-edge developing practical solutions to the risks posed by the Internet so that it continues to be a benefit not a detriment to people’s lives.
“They have blazed a trail of growth, innovation and job creation to become world leaders in their field and we are committed to maintaining their upward trajectory.”
Professor Ciaran Martin, CB, Professor of Government at Oxford University, advisor to Paladin Capital Group and founding CEO of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, said: “Properly designed, safer technology is critical to everything about our future in an uncertain and sometimes dangerous world. As this report shows, the UK is well placed to help develop safety tech in some key areas. It’s vital we take this opportunity.”
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