Chris Elmore, MP for Ogmore, is deeply concerned that the UK Tory Government’s reintroduced Online Safety Bill is nothing of the sort. Leaving children and young people vulnerable to online harm and bullying.

There is currently no overall regulator for the digital environment, and no specific content regulator for the internet. Until now, social media companies have been allowed to mark their own homework through self-regulation. Each platform has its own terms of use, which users agree to by joining, but this is not then upheld by any external body.

Many people find that reporting harmful content to platforms is like a ‘black box’ with no response and no action.

Under the UK Tory Government’s watch, we have seen:

  • Record increases in self-generated child sexual abuse material.
  • The design and operation of major social media services led to children being exposed to extreme pro-suicide, eating disorder and pornographic content.
  • An increase in fraud and scams online, with £3.6bn lost to cyber-enabled fraud last year.
  • 2000 abusive tweets were directed at four Black players following the England national football team’s loss at the Euro 2020 final.
  • A record number of antisemitic incidents were reported in the UK in May-June 2021, such that the Community Security Trust termed this period “the month of hate”. Many of these incidents took place online.
  • Since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, state-sponsored disinformation has run rife on social media.

Regulation to tackle online abuse was first promised by the Conservatives nearly four years ago. In the initial White Paper, the UK Tory Government promised ‘world leading’ legislation, however when the draft Online Safety Bill was published in May 2021, Labour called the proposals watered down and incomplete.

The draft Bill went through a full pre-legislative scrutiny process. The Joint Committee made a number of important recommendations in their report published late last year, some of which have been incorporated into the version of the Bill introduced to Parliament last week. However, a number of recommendations have been rejected – notably around the importance of the Bill being simplified, and that the regulator, Ofcom, should have an overarching duty of care/ability to set objectives for platforms.

Chris Elmore, MP for Ogmore said: 

“The UK Tory Government has taken an analogue approach to digital safety. Their proposals within this Bill will not protect the vulnerable or young online. It will embolden social media companies to mark their own homework and undermine the ability of complaints and safeguarding to be overseen by an independent body.

From charitable bodies, such as Samaritans, to victims of online abuse the message has been clear: this Bill is too weak to fix the Wild West of the online world. After the Molly Russell inquest, Russian disinformation campaigns, racist abuse against footballers, and eating disorder content it’s incredible that the UK Tory Government has watered down this long-awaited Bill quite so much.

If the Tories continue down this misguided, hands-off approach I will work tirelessly with my colleagues in Labour Party to implemented amendments. If we run out of parliamentary time the next UK Labour Government will pass legislation that will fix the lawlessness we have witnessed arise online.”


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