In a bid to tackle what it describes as "tragic and avoidable deaths caused by people seeing self-harm content online", the UK government plans to criminalize the encouragement of self- harm.

Platforms will be required to remove content that encourages someone to hurt themselves if the latest amendment to the online safety bill is adopted.

The secretary of state for digital said that the government wants to targetabhorrent trollers who encourage the young and vulnerable to self-injury.

The maximum penalties will be set out in the future.

In the UK, it is already illegal to encourage or assist suicide, online or offline, so the creation of the new offence is intended to bring self harm content in line with that prohibition.

The online safety bill was put on hold this summer due to political turmoil in the Conservative Party. The bill will be brought back to parliament next month after being changed.

Last week the Ministry of Justice announced some new additions to the Online Safety Bill, which are focused on tackling abuse of intimate images. The full shape of the legislation remains as a result of further changes around legal but harmful content.

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A few months after the government said it would respond to concerns over the bill's impact on freedom of expression online, the new secretary of state said in September she would be.

Since then child safety groups, which have been campaigning for years for the government to pass online safety legislation, have raised concerns about the bill being weakened.

The case of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old girl who took her own life five years ago after viewing thousands of pieces of online content about self- harm and suicide, influenced the latest changes.

The inquest concluded that social media was a factor in her death. A series of measures should be taken to regulate and monitor the use of social media by children.

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One of the most concerning and pervasive online harms that currently falls below the threshold of criminal behavior will be made illegal by the addition of an offence of encouraging self harm.

Donelan said that in a statement.

“I am determined that the abhorrent trolls encouraging the young and vulnerable to self-harm are brought to justice.

“So I am strengthening our online safety laws to make sure these vile acts are stamped out and the perpetrators face jail time.

“Social media firms can no longer remain silent bystanders either and they’ll face fines for allowing this abusive and destructive behaviour to continue on their platforms under our laws.”

Hate crimes, revenge porn, harassment and cyberstalking are included in the bill.

Donelan said measures for protecting children would be beefed up as a result of the report. By making it illegal to encourage self harm, the government will remove that type of problem content from the legal but harmful bucket, making it easier for ministers to reduce the level of regulation applied to this type of speech.

Huge questions remain over how platforms will respond to legal duties being placed on them to regulate all sorts of speech and whether it will boost safety for web users.

Major freedom of expression concerns remain over a regime with penalties that scale up to 10% of global annual turnover and even the risk of jail time for non-cooperative senior execs, with critics worried it will have a chilling effect by setting up platforms as defacto speech police and encouraging them

Since the controversial speech regulation legislation was published in full last year, kicking off over a year of parliamentary scrutiny, the government's approach has faced a lot of criticism and concern from inside parliament that the bill falls short of its stated aims and claims.

Outside parliament, rights campaigner, legal and technical experts are among those continuing to warn of a looming mess which they argue will apply the biggest penalties to UK web users faced with access restrictions like age verification pop-ups.

The tug of war between controversy over the government's approach and loud populist support for child safety claims attached to the bill has not reduced ministers' claimed commitment to passing the legislation

The bill will be back in parliament on Monday.

A recent government amendment puts a requirement on private messaging apps to be able to detect and remove child sexual exploitation and abuse.

A legal opinion written by a leading UK barrister was commissioned by the free speech campaign group index on censorship and questioned whether the bill was compatible with the UK's human rights obligations.

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