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Children are at risk from various forms of online behaviour and content – for example, cyberbullying, sexting, grooming, pornography and other age inappropriate material.

Successive governments have said that what is illegal offline is also illegal online and that existing legislation can be used to tackle online abuse. However, the Coalition Government did pass legislation to criminalise one particular type of online abuse – “revenge pornography”. The Scottish Government passed similar legislation.

In February 2016, the Government said that it did “not intend to introduce specific additional legislation to address online harassment and internet trolling”. The Government also said that it did “not want to make any form of bullying a criminal offence as to do so would risk criminalising young people”.

In a debate earlier this month on online abuse, many Members criticised the fragmented nature of the current legal framework. In response, the Government acknowledged the “clear call from the House for legislative clarity, both clarity in defining online abuse and clarity about the myriad different Acts and statutes that come to bear in this area”.


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