I am proud of the role I have actively played in successfully campaigning for Zach’s Law to be included in the Online Safety Bill - to make it an offence to electronically send or show flashing images to someone with epilepsy with the intention of causing them harm.
I have campaigned on this issue for more than two years after hearing of the traumatic and targeted online attack of Zach Eagling, who was diagnosed with both epilepsy and cerebral palsy. Zach was subjected to a targeted and malicious online attack after his mother, Claire Keer, posted Zach’s achievements of completing 130 laps of their garden unaided in his efforts to raise donations for the Epilepsy Society. Hundreds of flashing images were sent to Claire’s account with the intention of causing Zach to experience a seizure.
Unfortunately, Zach’s experiences were not unique as thousands of other messages were sent to the Epilepsy Society's account and the accounts of followers. This continues to this very day.
As a member of the Draft Online Safety Bill committee, I thoroughly scrutinised the provisions to ensure there would be protection for those with epilepsy from being sent flashing images, a proposal that was suggested by the Law Commission in June 2021.
With my encouragement, after the Draft Bill Committee recommended Zach’s Law be included in the Online Safety Bill, I engaged directly with executives of online platforms and social media bodies to ensure protections were in place to protect young and vulnerable users.
Zach’s Law (New Clause 53) has now passed through the House of Commons and will be included in the Online Safety Bill which, if receives Parliamentary approval, will be made into law this year. With oversight from the online regulator, Ofcom, social media companies will now legally be required to crackdown on perpetrators and ensure protection for young and vulnerable users.
Nicola Swanborough, Head of External Affairs, Epilepsy Society
" Dean was a very early supporter of Zach's Law, along with his colleague Suzanne Webb. Thanks to his tireless campaigning, first the Draft Committee and now the Government have backed Zach's Law in its entirety. In Monday's debate, Dean praised Zach for his David and Goliath like struggle. But even David needed a slingshot. Dean's valuable support means that thousands of people with epilepsy will soon be free from the fear of being cruelly bullied online."
This essential amendment and protection for vulnerable users is a huge success for young campaigner Zach, who has shown such strength and fortitude to stand up against tech giants. This will now give vital protection to those with epilepsy and will send out a powerful signal that abuse of this kind will not be tolerated. Perpetrators can now be brought to justice.