You’ll have heard a lot about the Online Safety Bill, but what is it and why does it matter?
The Online Safety Bill is a set of new regulations that aim to make the UK a safer place to be online.
The Bill seeks to introduce new rules for firms which host images, videos and comments generated by users, such as social media sites, message boards, forums, video sharing sites and search engines.
They will have legal duties to minimise harmful content presented to users. Platforms which fail to protect people could face fines or even be blocked.
Platforms ‘likely to be accessed by children’ will need to prevent their users from accessing eating disorder content.
The largest platforms will have to set out, in their terms and conditions, if pro-eating disorder content is allowed on their site. They will be required to provide tools that allow users to filter out pro-eating disorder content.
The idea behind the Bill is positive, but we’re concerned about some of the specifics:
In 2022 we surveyed people with lived experience of eating disorders to understand more about their experiences online. The results were concerning: 91% of people with lived experience of having an eating disorder had encountered content which was harmful in the context of their eating disorder.
Those surveyed described being ‘bombarded’ with triggering content, imagery and advertisements which could ‘fuel’ eating disorder thoughts and behaviours.
The algorithms that function to keep me hooked started to actually fuel my ED as they churned out more and more triggering content.
We also heard from individuals who had found support, comfort and solidarity in online communities, but there were concerning reports of individuals being suggested harmful content after engaging with these positive online spaces, as a result of content-based algorithms.
Read the full survey summary
We have written a briefing and shared with MPs and Lords. The briefing outlines our concerns, and presents the evidence we have collated on the impact the online world can have on those with eating disorders and their loved ones.
As the Bill moves through Parliament, we are working closely with MPs and Peers to ensure that our concerns are raised, and the experiences of those with eating disorders are considered.
If you have concerns about the Online Safety Bill, or about online safety, you can share your views with us.
This will help us to ensure that the voices of those with lived experience are central to our calls for change.
You can write to your MP to share your concerns and let them know the impact that online content has had on you and your recovery, or that of a loved one.
This is UK legislation, so whether you're in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, you can contact your MP about this.
If you are living with an eating disorder and feel that online spaces are affecting you, we are here to support you.
If you are supporting someone living with an eating disorder, we are here for you too.
If you are worried about what your child is accessing online, the NSPCC has produced a helpful guide on how to identify harmful content.