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Online Abuse and Hate towards Women

Volume 698: debated on Wednesday 7 July 2021

What steps she is taking with Cabinet colleagues to prevent online abuse and hate towards women by (a) involuntary celibates and (b) others who use hate speech. (902453)

Online abuse and hate towards women is completely unacceptable, and no one should have to experience threats to their safety or abuse online—and even offline. Under our groundbreaking online safety legislation, companies will need to take swift and effective action not only on illegal content, but on legal but harmful content, including abuse and hate speech.

Involuntary celibate groups—incel groups, as they are known—are increasingly on the rise. This online community understands society to be hierarchised along the lines of sexual attractiveness, and these misogynists blame women for their own lack of status and for forcing them into involuntary celibacy. The harbouring of hate and resentment towards women has manifested itself in a spate of deadly terrorist attacks across the Atlantic, with at least two cases of terrorism here in the UK motivated by incel ideas. Will the Minister commit to having discussions with the Home Secretary to identify, and proscribe where necessary, any forms of this deadly misogynist hate group? Moreover, as most of this hate occurs online, can the Minister tell us what steps the online harms Bill will take to end this online abuse against women, when it will be introduced and when its measures will take effect?

I pay tribute to the hon. Lady for the work that she is doing to call out online abuse. She is absolutely right: there is no place for this sort of behaviour online. The online harms Bill will make much clearer the links between what online companies say they do and what they actually do, and women will be better supported to report abuse and should expect to receive appropriate, swift action from the platform. In addition, we have sponsored the Law Commission review on harmful online communications, looking at whether the law needs to be tightened around this issue; that will be reporting back shortly.