Girls Aloud star Nicola Roberts says new online safety law won’t stop social media abuse

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Girls Aloud star Nicola Roberts has hit back at the government's planned Online Safety Bill, saying that it will not stop abusive social media users from re-joining platforms after being banned.

The 35-year-old singer, who has herself suffered online abuse, responded to a message from Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, where he joined his cabinet colleagues in condemning the racist comments made to Marcus Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho after Sunday's Euro 2020 final.

They were all unlucky from the spot during the penalty shootout, leading to a raft of racist abuse from trolls online.

Mr Dowden said: "I share the anger at appalling racist abuse of our heroic players.

"Social media companies need to up their game in addressing it and, if they fail to, our new Online Safety Bill will hold them to account with fines of up to 10 per cent of global revenue."

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The government's new bill will mean online companies will have a legal duty of care to protect users in the UK from harm – including abusive comments, threats and harassment.

Roberts, however, said that the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) had not consulted with victims of online abuse when drafting it.

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She replied to Mr Dowden, saying: "It will NOT. Until you close the gaps on making it impossible for an abuser to keep creating accounts.

"The @DCMS had not spoken to victims to gain experience of how to make this bill the most effective. It can't look like you're making a change. The change has to happen."

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She also shared a post on Instagram, saying she had met DCMS officials two weeks ago to discuss the bill.

"As someone who has dealt with abuse, harassment and stalking online which led to conviction and restraining order, they asked me and I know are asking others to support the bill and champion it though in hopes for it to become legislation," she said.

Roberts said, after reading the draft bill, that "the biggest loop hole and inadequacy I found in the efficiency of the bill is that they had failed to combat the problem of someone's account being taken down only for them only to start a new one under a different name".

The singer added that until "something more concrete" was produced to tackle the issue, she would not be able to support it.

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"It would be unproductive and a slap in the face for me to support something that ultimately was still contributing to countless people experiencing abuse online," she said.

"The online racism we have seen since last night's England game targeted at in particular a 19yr old is despicable.

"While my conversation with the department was private, today highlights why the bill really needs more work."

A DCMS spokesperson said: "This legislation will tackle anonymous abuse. We will not impose a blanket ban on anonymity online because for some groups such as people exploring their sexuality or suffering from domestic abuse it is important.

"However, all social media companies will have to meet their duty of care, which will mean stopping repeat offenders from opening new accounts and working with the authorities to make it easier to find people who set up accounts anonymously to abuse others."

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