What does the BBC Presenter scandal tell us about Digital Safety?

Have you been sucked into – sorry, watching and reading the news about a well known BBC presenter and a young person?  

Let’s be honest, many of us will have been clicking and reading news and some of us will have jumped into our favourite social media platforms to find out what the latest rumour is on who it could be. We are not going to speculate on that here but what we would like to discuss is what the fallout of the news can teach us about digital wellbeing.  

At Digital Safety CIC we have been watching the news with interest but we have also been discussing what has been going on behind the scenes. You see there is much more to this than just headlines, there are significant consequences and impacts from the events. 

There is the personal impact for everyone involved – from the young person at the heart of things, their family, the presenter and their family. But let’s delve a bit deeper, what about the presenters who have had to come out and say “it is not me”, their names and images splashed across multiple social media platforms, how about their families who will have had to cope with a barrage of reporters and intrusion into their lives. And finally there are the multiple social media users who have posted or reposted names and accusations, leaving themselves open to legal cases of libel and defamation. 

 What goes on in the online world has serious impact on real lives. 

Andy Jarman, Director at Digital Safety CIC is able to talk a bit more about the case and the need for better legislation to keep people safe online.  

“Whatever the truth behind this latest story turns out to be, is yet to be seen.  However, what will most definitely need to be examined is what part the internet and social media providers played in creating this frenzy of publicly played out, addictive behaviour in what seems to be often inaccurate portrayals of the facts, which will potentially having devastating effects on the people concerned and change lives. 

How many people can really say that we haven’t in some way or another been personally drawn into the doomscrolling or doomsurfing (spending an excessive amount of time reading and searching for negative news) centred around this latest speculation, social media frenzy and persistent journalistic headlines that have been dominating the news about a BBC presenter using the internet to facilitate and then exploit a young adult into the distribution of harmful and explicit content, cyber bullying and then latterly the circulation of disinformation about who the presenter may or may not be.. 

This yet again provides evidence to support the urgent need for better legislation and the early introduction of the online Safety Bill, which as we know was designed in part to address the need to protect vulnerable people from cyberbullying and the circulation of disinformation. 

Although the Bill has so far been stalled, due to numerous challenges and mixed reaction, some of this legislation is welcomed and seen as being necessary to protect users from this type of harmful content, while others argue that it is too restrictive and that it will stifle privacy and free speech.  

The Online Safety Bill is a piece of legislation in the United Kingdom that aims to make the internet safer for users. It was introduced in Parliament in 2021 and is currently making its way through the legislative process. 

The bill is complex, but overall has been designed to regulate social media platforms, search engines, and other online services to help protect users from a wide range of harmful content, including: 

  • Illegal content, such as child sexual abuse content, hate speech, and terrorism. 
  • Content that is harmful to children, such as pornography and self-harm content. 
  • Content that is harmful to adults, such as cyberbullying and disinformation. 

It also provides the government with the power to hold providers to account and fine companies that fail to comply with its requirements. 

Whatever your thoughts may be, the lessons learned, and the conclusions drawn out of this latest BBC investigation will undoubtedly have an impact on the shaping of this for the future.  Let’s hope that whatever the final recommendations may be, that at least it will yet again shine a light on the urgent need for the service providers to become more regulated and accountable for the risk and harm than can often be caused via online platforms and social media. 

What are your thoughts?  

Digital Safety CIC are launching a conference on Sept 7th focussing on Digital Wellbeing and Suicide Prevention for Young People. If you would like to find out more visit: OUR EVENT