Government welcomes C of E social-media guidelines

19 July 2019

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THE Church of England’s digital charter and new social-media guidelines have been welcomed by the Government. The Parliamentary Under-Secretary for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport, Lord Ashton of Hyde, called the charter “commendable”.

He was speaking in a House of Lords debate last week initiated by the Bishop of St Albans, Dr Alan Smith, on the new guidelines (News, 5 July).

Lord Ashton said: “I . . . thank the Rt Revd Prelate and the Church of England for their community guidelines and digital charter, and emphasise how aligned we are on some of the fundamental issues. We will continue to engage with the Church of England as this work progresses.”

Dr Smith had told peers: “These guidelines provide a codification of that choice between cynicism and positivity online. I would encourage all individuals and groups to commit to playing their part in making social media a more welcoming place. . .

“As a Church, these guidelines function simply as a contribution to the life of the nation, and the response, met without cynicism but with genuine appreciation, shows they are wanted.”

The Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Revd Stephen Cottrell, also spoke in the debate. He said: “If there are no expectations, if bad behaviour has no consequence, then we create a culture rather like the one that we currently have on most of the internet and especially on social media, such as Twitter and Facebook. . .

“[There is] rudeness, prejudice, uninformed ignorance, hatred of minorities, and much worse. Cruelty, harassment, and grooming can go unchallenged and even undetected, and no one seems prepared to take responsibility. Young people learn how to self-harm. Everyone has to be Instagram ready. Casual abuse that would not be tolerated anywhere else is considered normal.

“And, instead of changing it, instead of saying that it should not be this way, we teach our children resilience, as if somehow homophobic, racist, or sexist bullying was inevitable. It is not, which is why the civilised and civilising aspiration of this charter offers hope by raising the expectation of how we behave and how we are treated online.”

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