Clean up the Internet
Clean up the internet is a new, independent, UK-based organisation concerned about the degradation in online discourse and its implications for democracy.
We will campaign for government and tech industry action, to increase civility and respect online, and to reduce online bullying, trolling, intimidation, and misinformation.
1. We've assembled a small founding team, agreed our mission and secured some initial funding
Clean Up the Internet is independent, non-partisan, and not-for-profit. We will identify, and then campaign for, action to improve the quality of online discourse.
We'll campaign for government regulation and/or industry action, to improve levels of civility and respect, and to reduce levels of bullying, trolling, intimidation and misinformation.
Our founding team combines high levels of legal and campaigning expertise. Read more about who we are and how we are funded.
2. Now, we need advice from experts to shape our policy and strategy
We have developed some initial proposals for how the government’s “Online Harms” strategy could tackle the problems associated with anonymous accounts on social media and online forums. We are keen to get feedback on these ideas, in time to influence the forthcoming legislation.
We are developing our strategy for 2020, and are looking for allies and advisors.
We are assembling an advisory group to help guide our work in the years ahead.
3. Next, we will use the feedback and advice to launch campaigns
At the moment we see the UK government's "Online Harms" plans as a key opportunity.
We think the government, and the new regulator which they propose to set up, could do more to stop anonymous users spreading misinformation, derailing debates, and attacking other users. We are developing a strategy to influence these plans.
We anticipate launching our first campaigns in early 2020, with a view to influencing the legislation and the activities of the new internet regulator.
Why we're launching
Clean up the Internet
The UK has a serious problem with how conversations take place online. Bullying, harassment and intimidation are an everyday occurrence. Debates get derailed by anonymous trolls posting abuse or misleading information. Many people feel uneasy about the way online conversations so often take a nasty turn, whilst others feel unable to take part at all. British democracy is being damaged by this toxic culture.
Clean Up the Internet wants to change this. We want an internet where everyone can explore, discuss and debate the issues they care about without being subjected to abuse or confused by fake news. We want websites and social media networks to make life harder for trolls and bullies. Where Tech Companies are too slow to act, we want the government to force them.
Clean Up the Internet’s first initiative is to explore ways to stop trolls and bullies hiding behind a mask of anonymity to launch their abuse. How could sites like twitter, or newspaper comment pages, improve their verification systems? What limitations could be placed on the ability of anonymous users to derail debates or harangue other participants? What forms of government regulation will ensure the tech companies take the necessary action, whilst also safeguarding whistleblowing and freedom of expression?
What others are saying
about the problem
Kirsten Haire, Conservative
“The vast majority of people in this country engage positively in the democratic process... The disruptive minority who seek to block out alternative views offer nothing and conceal themselves behind anonymous screen names on Twitter and Facebook.”
Hannah Bardell, SNP
"The internet, and social media, should be good for democracy. It should mean more voices to be heard and debates are better informed. But sadly at the moment there's far too much abuse and misinformation, and important debates are reduced to shouting matches. This is extremely unpleasant for those that are involved in politics, and puts a lot of people off getting involved at all. We urgently need evidence-based action to address this situation, and I'm pleased to see Clean Up the Internet launching with a mission of proposing practical solutions. I wish them the best of luck."
Amnesty International, "Toxic Twitter" report, 2018
"Twitter is failing to adequately meet its responsibility to respect human rights in the context of violence and abuse against women on the platform as the steps it has taken are not sufficient to tackle the scale and nature of the problem."
Sir Hugo Swire, Conservative
"I have daughters who may one day want to come into this House. Indeed, I very much hope that they will consider it, but why should they if they know they are going to be subjected to these vile, anonymous goings-on on the internet?"
Chi Unwurah, Labour
"The abuse that politicians and candidates often attract not only prevents the interaction between constituents and MPs, but puts constituents off becoming MPs."
Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport "Adult Online Hate, Harrassment and Abuse Rapid Evidence Assessment", 2019
"Online hate can be worse than that which is face-to-face, as the Internet allows perpetrators to be anonymous. When victims do not know the identity of their abuser, this can lead to increased fear and paranoia"
Stephen Kinnock, Labour
"Clean Up The Internet is a much-needed initiative. The lack of regulation for online communication compared to offline is astonishing – much of the bile that exists on the internet would land individuals in prison if the comments were made in person. Social media and online forums can be very useful tools in connecting individuals around a common purpose and tackling isolation. But just like in any sector of the economy, politicians need to work with industry leaders to set the standards and regulations which protect consumers and offer a safe and level playing field for all involved. I hope Clean Up the Internet can help to achieve this."
Our response to the
"Online Harms" whitepaper
In April 2019, the UK government published a White Paper on its plans to tackle "Online Harms", and launched a public consultation.
In July 2019, Clean Up the Internet submitted a response to these plans. We outline some suggestions for how to tackle the problems associated with anonymous, pseudonymous and unverified users on social media and newspaper comment pages.