You can go on virtually any corner of the internet and find much written about the stresses that come from online dating. However, for women, these stresses are typically much greater than those experienced by men. Women are much more likely to deal with issues such as internet scams, threats, dating violence, revenge porn, and sexual assault. Recently a bill was introduced to Parliament that aims to provide greater online safety for all users. Let’s take a look at how this bill would help provide some governance for the internet.
What is the Online Safety Bill?
The Online Safety Bill was introduced in Parliament a few weeks ago and takes aim at a wide range of disturbing online trends with the goal of holding companies responsible for better governing the content that is posted by users on their sites. Failure to meet the responsibilities set forth in the bill would result in companies facing fines and their leaders facing possible jail time.
Specifically, the Online Safety Bill seeks to address issues including cyberbullying, pornography, and the promotion of self-harm. The goal is to walk a tightrope of protecting free speech while simultaneously protecting users, particularly children, from disturbing content and illegal activity. Thus, one of its major requirements is that the tech giants who allow users to post their own content take satisfactory measures to ensure their terms and conditions are upheld, particularly in terms of keeping children protected.
However, this new bill does not only deal with children; it is created as a strong generalist bill that would provide clear, concise guidelines for expectations for any company that uses the internet and allows users to create content or post their views. Much of the press related to this bill has understandably dealt with the area of social media. However, the bill is also poised to provide significant protections for dating app users as well.
How Will the Online Safety Bill Affect Dating Apps?
If passed, the online safety bill would put into place a wide array of protections for users of dating apps. While there are many components in the bill, perhaps one of the most applicable to online dating is attempts to address cyber-flashing. That’s right – the new online safety bill will seek to help prevent women from the barrage of unwanted dick pics. In addition to requiring companies to find ways to prevent this practice, those found guilty of sending them will face up to two years in prison.
The bill would also place stronger penalties for engaging in revenge porn, the act of sending privately disclosed nude photos to others without the consent of the subject. The bill also has an important clause that would increase enforcement against language communicating violence or threats online. This is incredibly important for helping provide a greater level of safety online for women. While this applied online in general, much of this will be greatly applicable to dating apps. After all, I think we’ve all had situations where we reject an offer only to be sent threatening language.
For many women, the bill could provide more protection as it contains language that seeks to address the romance scams that are rapidly growing in nature. These have always been an issue with online dating but were recently highlighted with the documentary Tinder Swindler. The bill would provide more extensive punishments for people who engage in these scams while holding those administering apps to higher standards to prevent them.
How Would the Online Safety Bill Be Enforced?
Ultimately, the question with any piece of legislation purporting to make the internet a safer place is how it aims to accomplish its goals. There are a number of methods in which the bill can achieve its aims. For offences that are related to individuals, they would fall under the criminal system.
However, the bill’s true power is likely in its efforts to compel large companies to listen to it. The government will have the power to levy large fines against companies that fail to comply with the bill, up to 10% of their annual global turnover. It can also lead to jail terms for executives of companies that fail to participate in investigations or refuse to make efforts to uphold the bill’s requirements.
It is this aim – the threat of penalties against companies directly – that will likely lead to this bill’s success. Companies will be forced to self-govern their user’s content in an effective way. This is important for creating rigorous processes that proactively identify and block harmful content and scams. Ultimately, while this bill provides some strong reactive provisions, it is the motivation to make companies proactive that makes it a powerful piece of regulation.