Theresa May asks for online abuse laws review in her suffrage centenary speech

The UK Prime Minister Theresa May has ordered for a review of the laws governing online communications in her latest shot at big tech firms. In her Suffrage centenary speech of some women gaining the right to vote, May will say that public debate is “coarsening” with a lot of this troubling behaviour taking place online.

“As well as being places for empowering self-expression, online platforms can become places of intimidation and abuse,” she will say.

“This squanders the opportunity new technology affords us to drive up political engagement.”

The Government wants to see as many social media companies as possible sign up to the code of conduct, to demonstrate their commitment to improving online safety for all.

The Prime Minister will also announce that the Law Commission will conduct a review of the legislation relating to offensive online communications, “to ensure that the criminal law, which was drafted long before the creation of social media platforms, is appropriate to meet the challenges posed by this new technology.”

The Law Commission is expected to look at whether the current law is fit for purpose in relation to tackling offensive online communications, including by ensuring that what is illegal offline is also illegal online. This will consider whether particular concepts need to be reconsidered in the light of technological change, for example whether the definition of who a ‘sender’ is needs to be updated.

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