Behaviour on Social Media

Oral Answers to Questions — Church Commissioners – in the House of Commons on 25th July 2019.

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Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham

What steps the Church of England is taking to promote positive behaviour on social media.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Chair, Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill Committee

The Church of England supports the Government’s aim to make this country the safest place to go online and has submitted evidence to the Government’s online harms White Paper. On 1 July, the Church launched its digital charter, which thousands of individuals around the globe have signed up to and which the Government have welcomed and support.

Photo of Daniel Kawczynski Daniel Kawczynski Conservative, Shrewsbury and Atcham

I thank my right hon. Friend for that answer. I am sure that she will share my serious concern about the level of hatred, intolerance and rage that appears online, especially on Twitter, sometimes with devastating consequences for young people who are very vulnerable. We have seen tragic examples of that. Will she take our appeal to the Church of England, asking that it does everything possible to work with other organisations to try to instil and inculcate in the next generation the importance of behaving normally and politely on social media?

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Chair, Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill Committee

As one of the largest providers of school education, the Church of England is encouraging all its schools to support the digital charter initiative. However, safe internet use applies to people who have faith or have no faith at all, and those of all ages. All Members of this House will be aware of the hate and hostility that many in this Chamber face on a daily basis. I urge all colleagues to consider joining up and supporting the digital charter so that we can foster a more positive experience for people online.

Photo of Barry Sheerman Barry Sheerman Labour/Co-operative, Huddersfield

Can I urge the right hon. Lady to make sure that all the bishops—we seem to have a lot of them in the Church of England now—lead this campaign? I am sure that Rose, our wonderful chaplain, is going to be a very energetic Bishop of Dover. We all wish her well and will miss her, but let us get these bishops doing a bit of leadership on issues such as social media.

Photo of Caroline Spelman Caroline Spelman The Second Church Estates Commissioner, Chair, Draft Parliamentary Buildings (Restoration and Renewal) Bill Committee

The bishops are all participating in social media and they are signed up to this charter. Let me share with colleagues some of the things that the charter advocates: that “what we post online” ought to be “fair and factual”; that we should engage constructively and think “the best of people”; that we should consider “the language we use”; and that we should

“use social media in a way that genuinely engages others.”

These are good principles.

Since the Speaker’s Chaplain has been mentioned by the hon. Gentleman, I say for the record that I condemn absolutely the very unpleasant article in The Spectator about the Rev. Rose, who has served this House outstandingly; I spring to her defence.

Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Chair, Speaker's Committee for the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, Chair, Commons Reference Group on Representation and Inclusion Committee

I am very grateful to the right hon. Lady. I am bound to say to her that I do not read the organ in question and therefore I am not familiar with that piece. I have no idea about it and frankly have absolutely no interest in it whatsoever. I know the Rev. Rose extremely well. She has proved to be a magnificent and enormously popular servant of this House. She will be a wonderful bishop. Dover’s gain is our loss, and we should take vicarious pride in the fact that someone valued and cherished by us is valued and cherished by the Church of England. Scribblers scribble; they matter, frankly, not a jot.