Amendment 12BA

Part of Online Safety Bill - Committee (2nd Day) (Continued) – in the House of Lords at 9:15 pm on 25 April 2023.

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Photo of Baroness Harding of Winscombe Baroness Harding of Winscombe Conservative 9:15, 25 April 2023

My Lords, earlier today the noble Baroness, Lady Benjamin, referred to a group of us as kindred spirits. I suggest that all of us contributing to this debate are kindred spirits in our desire to see consistent outcomes. All of us would like to see a world where our children never see pornography on any digital platform, regardless of what type of service it is. At the risk of incurring the ire of my noble friend Lord Moylan, we should have zero tolerance for children seeing and accessing pornography.

I agree with the desire to be consistent, as the noble Baroness, Lady Ritchie, and the noble Lord, Lord Browne, said, but it is consistency in outcomes that we should focus on. I am very taken with the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Allan, that we must be very careful about the unintended consequences of a consistent regulatory approach that might end up with inconsistent outcomes.

When we get to it later—I am not sure when—I want to see a regulatory regime that is more like the one reflected in the amendments tabled by the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and my noble friend Lord Bethell. We need in the Bill a very clear definition of what age assurance and age verification are. We must be specific on the timing of introducing the regulatory constraints on pornography. We have all waited far too long for that to happen and that must be in the Bill.

I am nervous of these amendments that we are debating now because I fear other unintended consequences. Not only does this not incentivise general providers, as the noble Lord, Lord Allan, described them, to remove porn from their sites but I fear that it incentivises them to remove children from their sites. That is the real issue with Twitter. Twitter has very few child users; I do not want to live in a world where our children are removed from general internet services because we have not put hard age gates on the pornographic content within them but instead encouraged those services to put an age gate on the front door. Just as the noble Lord, Lord Allan, said earlier today, I fear that, with all the best intentions, the desire to have consistent outcomes and these current amendments would regulate the high street rather than the porn itself.