Home UK News Encouraging self-harm online could lead to 5 years imprisonment

Encouraging self-harm online could lead to 5 years imprisonment

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online safety bill

According to government proposals, Internet users who encourage self-harm could face up to five years in prison.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) stated that the addition to the Online Safety Bill will build on existing laws that make it unlawful to promote or assist suicide.

According to Justice Secretary Alex Chalk, the measures are intended to deter “cowardly trolls” who post such content online by threatening prosecution.

To constitute an offence, posts would not need to target a specific individual or group.

“Building on the existing measures in the Online Safety Bill our changes will make it easier to convict these vile individuals and make the internet a better and safer place for everyone.”

The Ministry of Justice stated that general encouragement of self-harm, starvation, and refusal to take prescribed medication will be covered by the law.

Ministers had previously declared that the promotion of self-harm would be criminalised, but on Thursday they confirmed that the maximum sentence for conviction would be five years in prison.

It comes after former culture secretary Nicky Morgan accused the government of “condoning” harmful online content by rejecting demands to filter out such content by default.

The Tory peer implored ministers to amend the bill to require users to “flip a switch” if they wish to opt in, as opposed to out, to the most harmful content.

Justice Secretary Alex Chalk said: “There is no place in our society for those who set out to deliberately encourage the serious self-harm of others.

“Our new law will send a clear message to these cowardly trolls that their behaviour is not acceptable.

“Building on the existing measures in the Online Safety Bill our changes will make it easier to convict these vile individuals and make the internet a better and safer place for everyone.”

The measures implement a 2021 Law Commission recommendation that those responsible for encouraging or supporting severe self-harm be held more accountable under the criminal law.

They follow the suicide of Molly Russell, an adolescent who committed suicide after viewing graphic self-harm and suicide content online.

While the bill would establish a higher level of protection for minors, once they reach 18 that protection would be withdrawn, and all adults would be exposed to detrimental content unless they opt out.

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