WQ85132 (e) Tabled on 16/05/2022

What action is the Welsh Government taking to prevent online abuse?

Answered by Minister for Social Justice | Answered on 23/05/2022

As a Government we are absolutely committed to keeping people safe whilst they are online, and to protecting them from online abuse.

Behaviours such as trolling on social media can cause great harm and have a devastating impact on individuals’ lives and we have seen too many examples of social media being misused as a platform for harassment and abusive behaviour.

Education plays a key role in teaching children and young people the importance of respectful behaviour online. Our National Digital Resilience Action plan for children and young people outlines our commitment to enhancing online safety and sets out the broad range of activities we undertake to support children and young people, as well as their families and school communities.  

The Keeping safe online area of Hwb provides an extensive suite of information, guidance and resources to empower children and young people to think critically and use technology responsibly. These resources explore issues including online racism, misogyny, bullying and extremism.

In March, we published a new ‘Online issues and worries’ area on Hwb to provide online safety advice specifically developed for children and young people. The area includes information on the different types of online abuse to help them recognise these behaviours, alongside practical advice on what to do if they are affected, including how to report and where to go to get further support.

Last year we collaborated with the Football Association of Wales to raise awareness of the issue of online misogyny. We created new classroom resources, centred around a campaign film to highlight real life examples of abusive, derogatory comments on social media. The resources, which are available on Hwb, support conversations about the importance of mutual respect between girls and boys, and how to safely challenge online abuse.

Recognising the key role families play, last year we also launched ‘In the know’ – which provides detailed guides to support families in understanding the risks of different social media and gaming apps, and gives clear instructions on how to enable safety settings and report or block any inappropriate or unwanted contact. It also provides signposts to report any issues and access to dedicated support services.

We have developed a national communications campaign to tackle hate crime.  The campaign ‘Hate Hurts Wales’ features examples of online hate and encourages victims to report online hate. In addition, the campaign highlights to perpetrators the hugely negative impact of their actions on both the victim and their own lives. Feedback from the campaign is being used to help inform future campaigns.

Welsh Government funds Victim Support Cymru to run the Wales Hate Support Centre, which provides support to all victims of hate crime or hate related incidents in Wales, including online hate. As well as providing training and awareness raising

We are also working with Cardiff University on a HateLab Dashboard pilot. The pilot helps to identify trends in online hate speech, using mapping of hashtags, keywords, and social media ‘influencers’.

It is important that people in democratic roles are safe and we are keen to tackle the impact of online abuse. In July 2021 the Counsel General and Minister for the Constitution announced our framework for electoral reform, which sets out that everyone participating in the democratic process must be able to do so in a safe and respectful environment. We continue to work with partners, such as the WLGA, to support this principle and have commissioned a number of surveys which include questions about behaviours towards elected members, the findings of which will inform future policy and actions.

At a UK level the Department for Culture, Media and Sports are leading on a UK wide draft Online Safety Bill which aims to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online while also ensuring that people can enjoy their right to freedom of expression. We welcome the protection and safeguarding, in particular of children and young people, that forms a key aspect of the Bill and the duties placed upon online providers to take action to remove harmful and abusive content that threatens the safety of our citizens.