Online Harms White Paper

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 5:31 pm on 8th April 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Jeremy Wright Jeremy Wright The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 5:31 pm, 8th April 2019

I am grateful to the hon. Lady, and I agree with much of what she says. She asks some good questions, which I will try to answer.

It is important that we have a regulator that is properly resourced. I said that it was our intention to ensure that the industry pays for that regulator, which is of course what one would normally expect, but whether that is predominantly through a levy or fine income is a question we have asked for views on in the course of the White Paper. We look forward to hearing what people have to say. I am open to persuasion either way, or a combination of the two might be the best way to proceed, but obviously the weight of payment must be with the industry.

The hon. Lady asks whether the regulator will have the weight of law behind it. It will. As I indicated, we will need to legislate to set up the regulator; it will need statutory underpinning. I hope that she will be supportive of that effort when we bring legislation before the House.

The hon. Lady makes a good point about online abuse of women and girls in particular. One of the reasons that I am so keen to see this process continue is that if we do not give the citizens of this country the opportunity to speak up online, to participate in the debate on what is now one of the central forums for debate, we will lose a huge number of powerful voices in the course of making our country a better place. To women —young women in particular—who feel that that is a hostile environment in which to participate in debate, we have a particular duty. I believe that the regulator will help us to fulfil that duty.

The hon. Lady mentions codes of practice. She might not yet have seen that the social media code of practice is published alongside the White Paper, so that document is now available and I hope that online companies will start to take clear account of it. The work that the Home Office will now do will specifically be in relation to child sexual abuse and to the promotion of terrorism. Because of the seriousness of the harms, we believe it is appropriate for the Home Secretary to have input into the design of the codes of practice.

Finally, the hon. Lady has my assurance that we will continue to work with the Scottish Government. I have already had a very productive conversation with her colleague in the Scottish Government, Kate Forbes. We will seek to take forward that co-operation as we develop the proposals.