Online Harms - Statement

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 5:55 pm on 8th April 2019.

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Photo of Lord Ashton of Hyde Lord Ashton of Hyde The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 5:55 pm, 8th April 2019

My Lords, with regard to disinformation connected with democracy and those essential questions, the White Paper deals with disinformation generally. With regard to electoral reform and how elections can be affected by the use of the internet, as I said, the Cabinet Office is bringing out a report soon to deal with that. It is right that constitutional affairs are dealt with there.

On disinformation, we have listed in the White Paper some of the areas we expect the regulator to include, such as:

“Promoting diverse news content … Improving the transparency of political advertising”— noble Lords can read it themselves; there are other things. That is how we are trying to do it across government. As I said, there are other areas that we deliberately do not cover in the White Paper, but that should not be taken to mean that work is not going on. However, I accept the noble Lord’s suggestion that it is important and needs to be done soon. I take that on board.

As far as time is concerned, we are having a consultation, as the noble Lord said, which will end on 1 July. Obviously, it is not possible for me to say today when legislation will come before the House. That is a decision for the Government and the Leaders of both Houses. Judging by the discussions we have had today, and the feeling I get from across the House, all noble Lords think that this is an important issue. The Government think that this is an important issue. We are aware that we have taken time over the consultation. As far as the Home Office and DCMS are concerned, we want to get on with it.

We have just announced a review of advertising that will report in due course.