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Jersey turned down UK online safety bill

Jersey turned down UK online safety bill

Tuesday 23 April 2024

Jersey turned down UK online safety bill

Tuesday 23 April 2024


Jersey's Government turned down Parliament's offer to extend the UK Online Safety Act to the island in favour of creating its own legislation, it has emerged.

Children, Education and Home Affairs Scrutiny Panel Chair Deputy Catherine Curtis expressed her "disappointment" at the move, and said her panel would be “seeking reassurances” about what is planned to take its place after the decision came to light.

In a response to Deputy Curtis's written question, Children's Minister Richard Vibert revealed that Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel decided in September 2022 not to pursue a 'Permissive Extent Clause' in the Online Safety Act – which would have brought Jersey under the scope of the legislation – after the UK requested the Government's permission to include the island.

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Pictured: Deputy Catherine Curtis expressed her “disappointment” that the Government turned down Parliament's offer to extend the UK Online Safety Act to the island.

In his response, Constable Vibert explained: "This followed a review of the UK legislation and corresponding Jersey law which indicated that Jersey could legislate locally for the same purposes (if desired)."

He added that officers in various departments were scoping legislation to protect against digital harms, alongside incorporating recommendations from the Violence Against Women and Girls taskforce.

Re-posting the response on social media, Deputy Curtis said: "One of the biggest concerns of parents and children is online safety.

"I'm disappointed that Jersey did not allow for the extension of the online safety act from the UK.

"The CEHA panel will be seeking reassurances about what's planned to take its place."

She added: "Why was this decision not shared among ministers? Why was the States Assembly not made aware?"

The decision was initially revealed last month when the Children's Minister responded to Deputy Curtis's request for further information on the fleeting mention of the decision.

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Pictured: Deputy Curtis raised the issue following a scrutiny hearing last month.

In response, Constable Vibert said: "The analysis was that if Jersey wanted to legislate for the same purposes, then this can be addressed locally.

"Jersey has a strong reputation for developing relevant and appropriate local legislation.

"The current relationship between Ofcom and Jersey, is clear and supportive in the relevant policy spaces."

It follows a flurry of social media activity from parents concerned about anonymous Snapchat accounts sharing compromising content of children and young people.

A Jersey student, who says cyberbullying once drove her to contemplate suicide, shared her "mortifying" experience of harmful social media groups with Express.

What is the Online Safety Act?

The Online Safety Act became law in the UK in October 2023.

It contains a range of measures intended to improve online safety, including duties on internet platforms about having systems and processes in place to manage harmful content on their sites, including illegal content.

The Act also introduces new criminal offences and creates Ofcom as the regulator for online safety, granting it new powers including those required to enforce the framework.

What are Jersey's current plans around online safety legislation?

Last month, the Home Affairs Minister unveiled her ambitious plan to tackle violence against women and girls – which include making cyber-flashing and cyber-stalking specific offences in Jersey law before the end of 2025.

Deputy Mary Le Hegarat said she planned to criminalise cyber-flashing and the use of deep fakes through amendments to the Sexual Offences (Jersey) Law 2018, and that cyberstalking would be criminalised under the new stalking offence.

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Pictured: Former police officer Deputy Mary Le Hegarat said she planned to criminalise cyber-flashing and the use of deep fakes.

On regulating online platforms, she previously said the path is not clear, explaining that the island needs to look at what other jurisdictions are doing and whether there is anything that can be done "off the back of that".

"There is a lot of work being done by other jurisdictions that will hopefully have some impact on us too," she said.

Deputy Le Hegarat also stressed the importance of educating islanders about how to stay safe online.

Detective Superintendent Alison Fossey agreed that a "bespoke law" was need to tackle cyber offences effectively.

In 2021, the Chief Minister requested that new guidance was drawn up regarding online abuse to provide more clarity to the authorities and victims, weeks after a Deputy was targeted with a covid death threat online.

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