Press forward with On-line Security Invoice to sort out anti-vaxxers and abuse, former tradition secretaries urge
Boris Johnson must push legislation to enforce social media platforms as a priority amid growing concerns over anti-vaccine disinformation and racism online, former Tory culture ministers warned.
The call comes after it was discovered that thousands of boys were attracted to so-called “incel” sites on the Internet that inspired Plymouth shooter Jake Davison.
The long-awaited Online Security Act has been hit by a number of delays and was only released as a draft despite ongoing calls for stricter regulation of Internet platforms.
The Conservative Karen Bradley presented the government’s cyber security strategy in 2017 during her tenure as Secretary of Culture between 2016 and 2018.
she said I: “I was hoping that by now we would have solid rules for dealing with online damage and misinformation on the Internet.
“Passing legislation really needs to be a priority for the government because until parliament can debate these issues, regulators and users don’t know the framework in which they can legally operate.”
The bill, released in May, outlined plans to empower regulator Ofcom to penalize social media companies and other tech companies for failing to exercise due diligence to protect online users.
The Prime Minister has repeatedly insisted that the powers included in the legislation would help combat the worrying rise in vaccination disinformation and online racism following the UK Euro 2020 final.
Baroness Morgan, who headed the Department of Culture, Media and Sport from 2019-2020, said the delays in legislation were “baked in” mainly due to the pandemic, but warned if the pre-legislative phase is rushed it could lead to further delays – ups due to a larger number of amendments tabled.
“Yes, we need it sooner rather than later, but we also need it to be workable and enforceable,” she said I.
The Tory peer called on the government to allow Ofcom to start drawing up its codes of conduct before the legislation is passed, which would give social media platforms a better understanding of how the regulatory landscape will work in the future, and Force change sooner.
Several Conservative MPs have urged the government to pass the new laws as soon as possible to counter the effects of social media on the youth in particular.
It was revealed over the weekend that Jake Davison, the gunman in Plymouth, may have been radicalized by the “incel” subculture, which promotes a misogynist ideology that attracts more than half a million clicks a month.
Andy Burrows, NSPCC’s Head of Child Safety Online Policy, said, “The online safety law has been in place for three years, and given the ongoing harm children are exposed to, it is extremely important that there are no further delays to obtain comprehensive regulation of the law Book.
“The government should work towards the fastest possible timeframe to get a regulator up and running and take decisions on these critical issues as soon as possible after the legislation is passed.”