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

I agree with the noble Lord about money, although it is not only about money; individual liability is also important. If senior executives of companies are held personally responsible, that has a significant effect, as do criminal charges against companies. However, those things are part of the consultation.

On Russia and China, and countries that do not share our views about the open internet, obviously we have to take that into account, which is why, for example, there is a lot of discussion about disinformation and how companies will be expected to look out for that and deal with it by using technology and in many other ways.

Lastly, I am not aware of the detail of the international discussions, but no other country has taken this approach. For example, we have talked about individual measures that different countries have taken: Australia has set up a new safety commissioner, who is like an ombudsman, but again, that is reactive rather than proactive, and Germany has set up a law which insists that companies must take down material, but again, that is reactive. We have talked to countries about individual bits of legislation, but no one anywhere has taken a holistic and proactive approach to internet regulation. We certainly expect that if this goes through, is a success and works well, other countries will be interested, and we will certainly be prepared to talk to them about it.