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Online Safety Regulation Social Media

70% of social media users have a problem with harmful content, finds UK government


By Hannah Bowler, Senior reporter

July 12, 2022 | 3 min read

Seven in 10 UK adults want social platforms to clamp down on harmful content and, if they fail to do, so nearly 50% would leave or reduce time spent on them.

DCMS research shows the UK public want social platforms to do better

DCMS research shows the UK public want social platforms to do better / Pexels

A government-commissioned poll has revealed the public’s lack of tolerance for online harm, and issued a warning to social media firms about the impact of inaction on this subject.

The research revealed a worrying 84% of UK adults fear seeing harmful online content such as racism, self-harm and homophobia, and 38% reported having seen some cases in the past month.

Pollsters Ipsos interviewed 1,140 adults to uncover 45% of women feel unsafe using dating apps and 65% of women are calling for limits to the types of content people can post online. “It is clear people across the UK are worried about this issue,” said digital secretary Nadine Dorries.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) commissioned the study to coincide with the Online Safety Bill moving to report stage, giving all MPs the chance to scrutinize the bill.

Once passed the government will require social platforms to protect children and tackle illegal activity. It also hands broadcasting regulator Ofcom the power to fine companies for failing to comply with the laws. The bill is expected to make its way through the Commons despite last week’s political turmoil. The newly-appointed online safety minister Damian Collins will oversee the bill.

Protecting children is a key focus of the bill. The poll demonstrated the need for intervention after nearly half of families with children reported having seen abuse content in the past month.

Pornography, content promoting self-harm or eating disorders, cyberbullying, violence and health misinformation are among the harms the DCMS is looking to legislate against.

“Online abuse has a devastating impact on people’s lives, and these findings definitively show the public back our plans, which will force social media companies to step up in keeping their users safe,” Dorries added.

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