Maria Miller MP joined Yvette Cooper MP, Stella Creasy MP, Jo Swinson and Jess Phillips MP to host the launch ‘Reclaim the Internet’ a major online public debate and consultation.
The campaign is a call to arms for people to be part of the campaign against abuse and harassment - and draws inspiration from the "Reclaim the Night" marches of the 1970s and 80s as a way to change attitudes and demand action against harassment, intimidation and violence against women on the streets.
Maria said "Two years ago I was contacted by a young woman in my constituency fearful for her friends about nude and naked images being posted online without their permission as a form of sick revenge by ex-boyfriends and partners. And that they had to pay money to have those images taken down and that no one in authority seemed to be able to help. When I looked further I was told the law was adequate, that there were few cases reported anyway and well, most shockingly of all it was their fault for allowing the pictures in the first place.
I am glad to say that wasn't everyone's view and working with the then Lord Chancellor Chris Grayling we secured a new law to recognise revenge pornography. Today the Government’s Revenge Pornography helpline has received more than 2000 calls with more than 1000 criminal cases reported to the Police. Successful prosecutions are too low but this is one of the first laws to recognise crimes on and off line are not the same, they have different impacts and require different law. Now we need to help ensure the Police have the training and resources to collect evidence and successfully prosecute the perpetrators of these appalling crimes.
Revenge pornography and other forms of online abuse are not solely aimed at women – racism, homophobia are all too prevenient too. Online hate crime is insidious – conducted in private but still as capable of wrecking lives.
The appalling impact of revenge pornography and online hate crime on people’s lives is one of the reasons I am here today to help launch Reclaim the Internet.
For people in Britain and around the world the Internet and mobile technology are tools of empowerment, particularly for women – putting our voices out there at the heart of the political argument on a global stage, giving access to remote learning, flexible working, increasing the ability of women to tackle the work and caring challenges they have every day. We don't have to put up with the criminal abuse that currently goes with that.
This campaign is about raising awareness of the need for the Police and prosecutors to have the tools to tackle online hate crime - there is currently a patchwork of 30 pieces of legislation, clearly making it difficult for Police to take action.
This campaign is an opportunity to gather people’s views on what a wholesale review of the law might include. National Police lead Chief Constable Stephen Kavanagh is clear the status quo in law doesn't serve victims - that there has been an explosion of online crime and that much of the legislation predates the Internet age. There needs to be better training for the Police particularly around evidence gathering; and we need to consider whether anonymity for victims could be appropriate too.
The law is there to punish and deter but also help ensure Internet Service providers, social media and mobile networks have a clear legal framework too.
When it comes to providers incredible progress been made to clean up the internet, removing and blocking child abuse images on line was said to be almost impossible just 4 years ago, in those first conversations the problems appeared insurmountable. Yet expert help, technical know-how, international cooperation and immense tenacity by certain individuals some of whom are in this room today means that huge progress is being made – we need to use that case study led by the Prime Minister to show what can be done when there is political and industry will to act. I am pleased that the Government is bringing forward a Bill in this session to tackle age restricted access to pornography online, showing that there is still momentum to make change.
And You can see that same political and industry will here today at the launch of this new campaign.
I would like to thank all of the organisations who have already pledged their support for this new campaign and I look forward to working with you.
Yesterday the Women and Equality Select Committee held its first evidence session on its new Inquiry into sexual assaults and harassment in schools. We heard from young people about how being called a slut, a whore or worse was part of everyday life for them, perhaps the Internet is just revealing what we are allowing people to think is the norm in Britain today. We have to challenge misogyny wherever it exists.
When I spoke to the Oxford Media Convention in February 2014 I said the Internet isn't a ‘second life’, different rules don't apply. The veil of anonymity the Internet provides might have a value but doesn't give a licence to insult, cheat or exploit.
Enough is enough – we need law that's fit for the Internet age and we need policing that can too.
We need a culture change in our attitude towards the internet – we need to reclaim the internet for the majority and this campaign is an important start to that process."