Amendment 4

Part of Online Safety Bill - Committee (2nd Day) – in the House of Lords at 6:15 pm on 25 April 2023.

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Photo of Lord Clement-Jones Lord Clement-Jones Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Science, Innovation and Technology) 6:15, 25 April 2023

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Baroness, Lady Harding. If one is permitted to say this in the digital age, I am on exactly the same page as she is.

There are two elements to the debate on this group. It is partly about compliance, and I absolutely understand the point about the costs of that, but I also take comfort from some of the things that the noble Lord. Lord Vaizey, said about the way that Ofcom is going to deliver the regulation and the very fact that this is going to be largely not a question of interpretation of the Act, when it comes down to it, but is going to be about working with the codes of practice. That will be a lot more user-friendly than simply having to go to expensive expert lawyers, as the noble Baroness, Lady Fox, said—not that I have anything against expensive expert lawyers.

I am absolutely in agreement with the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, that small is not safe. As the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, described, small can become big. We looked at this in our Joint Committee and recommended to the Government that they should take a more nuanced approach to regulation, based not just on size and high-level functionality but on factors such as risk, reach, user base, safety performance and business model. All those are extremely relevant but risk is the key, right at the beginning. The noble Baroness, Lady Fox, also said that Reddit should potentially be outside, but Reddit has had its own problems, as we know. On that front, I am on absolutely the same page as those who have spoken about keeping us where we are.

The noble Lord, Lord Moylan, has been very cunning in the way that he has drawn up his Amendment 9. I am delighted to be on the same page as my noble friend —we are making progress—but I agree only with the first half of the amendment because, like the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, I am a financial contributor to Wikipedia. A lot of us depend on Wikipedia; we look up the ages of various Members of this House when we see them in full flight and think, “Good heavens!” Biographies are an important part of this area. We have all had Jimmy Wales saying, as soon as we get on to Wikipedia, “You’ve already looked at Wikipedia 50 times this month. Make a contribution”, and that is irresistible. There is quite a strong case there. It is risk-based so it is not inconsistent with the line taken by a number of noble Lords in all this. I very much hope that we can get something out of the Minister—maybe some sort of sympathetic noises for a change—at this stage so that we can work up something.

I must admit that the briefing from Wikimedia, which many of us have had, was quite alarming. If the Bill means that we do not have users in high-risk places then we will find that adults get their information from other sources that are not as accurate as Wikipedia —maybe from ChatGPT or GPT-4, which the noble Lord, Lord Knight, is clearly very much an expert in—and that marginalised websites are shut down.