A Scottish nurse, Ruth Moss, whose young daughter tragically ended her own life after viewing dangerous content on the internet, has welcomed a shift in legislation compelling tech firms to safeguard children’s online activities. Moss hails from Dalkeith in Midlothian and suffered the loss of her daughter Sophie Parkinson in 2014 when Sophie was only 13. Ruth, a nurse at Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh, has since spearheaded the initiative for companies to assume greater accountability for child safety online.Prior to this, tech firms held no legal obligation to shield children from sexual exploitation and risky material on social platforms, gaming apps, and interactive services. However, a triumphant outcome of relentless campaigning is the enactment of The Online Safety Act. This crucial legislation was announced at a National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) reception in Parliament.

Ruth Moss has been instrumental in securing amplified protection for children under this new Act. She voices her struggles over two desperate years in trying to shield her daughter from online hazards. Sophie had started self-harming and started exploring self-harm and suicide content from the tender age of 12. She had also started having online interactions with older men and had exposed herself to violent pornography.

Ruth reflects on her ordeal, “For no less than two years, we battled to keep Sophie safe online. Despite our efforts in confiscating devices, limiting her internet usage, setting up parental controls, and engaging her in internet safety discussions, we could not spare her from the onslaught of dark, graphic, and harmful content that propagated self-harm and suicide.”

The graphic and offensive material Sophie encountered led to a severe deterioration of her already fragile mental health, leading ultimately to her tragic demise. Ruth, like all bereaved parents, continues to hold onto the pain of her loss. However, she is optimistic about the new legislation being a significant initial step. It sends a strong warning to tech firms that safety should not be compromised in the pursuit of profit. Tech companies no longer can shirk their responsibility in ensuring the safety of service users on their platforms.

For effective enforcement of this bill, challenges lie ahead with Ofcom going toe-to-toe with some of the world’s most powerful organizations. Other participants at the event included young campaigners alongside the NSPCC, a mother sharing her own experiences including her child being sexually abused on social media platforms.

The event was hosted by MP Sajid Javid, the Home Secretary when the regulation for child protection online was first proposed by the Government in 2018. This was following the launch of the NSPCC’s Wild West Web campaign. As Ofcom readies itself to implement these regulations which tech companies will have to comply with, it is a pivotal time to raise awareness of the need for child protection on these platforms.

NSPCC Chief Executive Sir Peter Wanless said, “It was an honour to unite people from diverse communities whose advocacy and dedication has helped realise the Online Safety Act. I want to express my gratitude to everyone who has been impacted by online abuses and have bravely campaigned to safeguard others.”

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