Online Harms

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:32 pm on 19th November 2020.

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Photo of Christian Wakeford Christian Wakeford Conservative, Bury South 3:32 pm, 19th November 2020

I congratulate my right hon. and learned Friend Jeremy Wright, my hon. Friend Fiona Bruce and Dame Diana Johnson on securing this important debate. As my right hon. and learned Friend said, there needs to be parity between online and real-world abuse. Just because hate is fuelled online, it does not make it any less real or any less hurtful, so there really should be parity. We are taking this seriously and that needs to be reflected in the law. People cannot hide behind a keyboard and expect to get away with it.

In the brief time I have, I want to tell two stories. The first involves a Conservative Member of this House who was in Germany some years ago, where they happened upon a far-right rally. The Member confronted the neo-Nazi group and was told to read a book about how Hitler was, in fact, a British spy—a preposterous conspiracy.

The second story is about a man named Joseph Hallett, who for some time has asserted his right to the throne of the United Kingdom, claiming he was cheated of his birth right by the illegitimate conception of King George V, a claim with no basis. He is known online as King John III, and his story has gained popularity among the QAnon movement, a conspiratorial group claiming special knowledge of satanic paedophile rings at the heart of government. Hallett, the fake king, thinks that the royal family is in hock to the Rothschilds, and anyone with an understanding of antisemitism will know where I am headed with this. He is an author, known by his second name, Greg, and he has written about his mad theories. His tome “Gifting the United Nations to Stalin” blames the Jews for 9/11. What else did he write? The book about Hitler being a British spy, recommended in person by a neo-Nazi to a Member of this House. Hallett has interacted with the QAnon community online. This conspiracy network captures the imagination of the unsuspecting, the naive or the bored, and drags them into worlds of hate.

The hatred is not limited to online spaces. QAnon accounts inspired the German faction known as Reichsbürger—citizens of the Reich—to storm the German Parliament in August. Perhaps it was one of its members that our colleague spoke to. More than 50 5G masts were burned down in Britain following another Q conspiracy. In spite of this, some elected representatives in the United States are voicing support for Q. Dealing with the type of legal but harmful content that Q represents is just one of the steps that will need to be taken through the online harms Bill.

In closing, I call on my hon. Friend the Minister to assure me that the proposed duty of care will not simply consist of a requirement for terms and conditions, which the White Paper professed to be insufficient. Will the Government consider giving a code of practice on hate crime equal status to the two proposed statutory codes on terrorism and child sexual exploitation and abuse, as the Antisemitism Policy Trust, the Community Security Trust, the Jewish Leadership Council and the Board of Deputies have called for? And can the Minister confirm that the Government will ensure that all elements of platforms with user-generated content will be covered?