Internet and social media causing ‘moral decay’, bishop warns

Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell has warned of the "moral decay" caused by a lack of regulation

Bishop of Chelmsford Stephen Cottrell has warned of the "moral decay" caused by a lack of regulation on the internet. Picture: GETTY IMAGES - Credit: Getty Images/Ingram Publishing

“Deep-seated, corrosive and pervasive” problems are being caused by a lack of laws on what is acceptable online, a bishop has warned.

The Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, Bishop of Chelmsford, told the House of Lords during a speech that: “An unregulated digital environment is causing moral decay.”

He has particular fears about the impact on young people, whether it is them being subjected to abuse online or being exposed to material of a more adult nature.

And he said people need to ask an “important philosophical question” - namely: “What sort of world do we wish to build in this digital age?”

He added: “With any other public space, be it a cinema, a shopping mall or a city square, our assumption is that this is a safe place for all ages to gather and therefore safe for children.

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“In a public park or a city square we do it through public order legislation. The internet is a public space.

“Indeed, for children and young people it is the public space.

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“This means that regulation and guidance to make the internet safe by design are all the more necessary.

“Far from inhibiting the internet, as some vested interests claim, it will enable the internet to be the democratic, creative and liberating space it is meant to be. “It is the lack of regulation that makes it dangerous and debilitating. Achieving a common standard does not make the internet restrictive for adults - it just means that we apply the same principles to all parts of our common life.

He went on to say: “Most of all, we need to make it safe by design, and teach children how to inhabit it.

“Without this, we will sell them short and allow the liberating genius of the internet to be compromised and stymied.”

He is not the first to raise concerns about the impact on the internet and social media.

Last year Suffolk police chief constable Gareth Wilson warned how aggressive “keyboard warriors” were burdening police with additional work as officers are forced to investigate spiteful comments being spread on social media.

Mr Wilson said: “The era of the keyboard warrior filling social media with both hatred and spite has added to the workload of many officers.

“Their activity ranges from low level comments that cause offence to threats against life.”

? What do you think? Do you think the internet is too dangerous and needs more regulation? Email your views here.

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