Liz Truss + Online Safety bill
With a swift return to normality in the UK, Conservative Prime Minister Liz Truss has informed Parliament that the Online Safety bill will be one of her government’s priorities (you may remember from our July newsletter). But why has it not been passed yet?
A great deal of the debate surrounding the bill is concerned with the removal of ‘illegal content’, as it has ruffled the feathers of MPs concerned with freedom of speech.
The phrasing regarding the regulation of ‘legal but harmful’ content made the headlines because it lacks clarity. Originally expected to include issues of abuse, harassment, and contentencouraging self-harm, it was expanded to cover illegal misinformation, particularly that which incites violence. However, due to pressures of safeguarding freedom of speech, the cultural secretary Michelle Donelan recently told the BBC that the clause is being revised, which suggests it might be dropped.
Although this bill is long overdue, the major issue Parliament needs to address is defining what constitutes harmful online content without falling into a trap of rhetoric on freedom of speech. Alas, the current debate has completely overshadowed the scaling of platform ‘risk levels’, which are key to ensure firm accountability with users. The issue has become even more relevant since the inquest of the death of Molly Russell, blaming social media for the schoolgirl’s self-harm, anxiety and depression.
The interview with the BBC radio 4 programme has left newspapers debating whether the ‘legal but harmful’ clause will be dropped: