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Suicide prevention charity Samaritans has issued a warning that the draft online safety bill, which is currently being considered by the Joint Select Committee, will not protect those who are at greater risk of suicide unless a loophole is closed.

Chief executive Julie Bentley observed that the current proposals are not yet fit for purpose and will not provide protection from harmful suicide and self-harm material that can be found online, with just the most well-known platforms required to act as it stands right now.

Smaller sites such as message boards, forums and online community groups are only required to protect children from “legal but harmful” content, which leaves those over the age of 18 at risk from content on sites unlikely to provide safe moderation and vital support.

Ms Bentley said: “The online safety bill is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make the internet safer, but the UK government must close the loophole which allows harmful content to be seen by over-18s on smaller sites like pro-suicide forums that are less likely to be moderated.

“The bill rightly gives a much higher level of protection to children but being over 18 doesn’t stop you being or becoming distressed and at risk of suicide.”

A recent Samaritans poll revealed that 82 per cent of people believe both children and adults should be afforded the same levels of protection from harmful content online. Some 75 per cent also agree that all platforms featuring user-generated content should tackle harmful posts.


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