helpline 01494 601 400
20 May 2020

Write to Your MP About the Online Harms Bill

Following last week’s Twitter attack , with malicious gifs posted to provoke seizures, we are urging people to join our campaign to safeguard people with epilepsy from online harm. We are asking you to write to your local MP, asking for their support in including people with photosensitive epilepsy in the government’s Online Harms Bill.

This is an important piece of legislation and currently focuses on harmful material being disseminated on online platforms, such as terrorism, exploitation of children or vulnerable adults, and other criminal activity.

However, at Epilepsy Society we think that the Online Harms Bill could go further and should protect people with epilepsy. Over 200 malicious posts were sent to Epilepsy Society’s Twitter account in just 48 hours. Many of our supporters were targeted, including an eight year old boy with cerebral palsy and epilepsy. At least two people reported having seizures.

We want the Government to:

  • Criminalise the knowing dissemination of online material capable of causing a seizure;
  • Introduce a code of practice for social media companies to have a duty of care to remove harmful material and to provide a warning about flashing images which may trigger a seizure in someone with photosensitive epilepsy.

If you would like to email or write to your Member of Parliament, we have a suggested format below. If you would like to include your own experience with epilepsy you can put this in the fourth paragraph where it says [INSERT YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE ABOUT EPILEPSY HERE].

You could also call your Member of Parliament’s office and arrange an appointment to speak with them.

You can find your local Member of Parliament and their contact information here: members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP


 

Dear [MP NAME],

I live at [INSERT ADDRESS] in your constituency and I am emailing you to urge the Secretary of State to amend the Online Harms Bill to protect people with epilepsy.

A recent article (epilepsysociety.org.uk/Twitter-attack) highlighted how epilepsy organisations and people with epilepsy online are being targeted. Social media accounts are being set up to target people with epilepsy with flashing gifs and videos designed to trigger seizures. These accounts target profiles about epilepsy and hashtags commonly used by people with epilepsy. These online posts have damaging and harmful real-world consequences.

Having a seizure can lead to severe injuries, unemployment, social isolation, and can be fatal. Every year 1,000 people die from epilepsy. That is why I am asking you to back the Epilepsy Society’s campaign to criminalise this behaviour in the Online Harms Bill and compel social media companies to prevent harmful material from being used to target those with epilepsy on their platforms.

[INSERT YOUR OWN EXPERIENCE ABOUT EPILEPSY HERE]

I would be grateful if you could urgently write to Oliver Dowden the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport about this malicious online content which is causing harm and distress to many people throughout the country.

Yours sincerely,

[NAME]

 

[ADDRESS]

[PHONE NUMBER]