Amendment 13

Online Safety Bill - Committee (3rd Day) – in the House of Lords at 11:51 am on 27 April 2023.

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Lord Moylan:

Moved by Lord Moylan

13: Clause 6, page 5, line 33, after “services” insert “that are not Category 2A services”Member’s explanatory statementThis amendment is consequential on other amendments in the name of Lord Moylan to remove Clause 23(3) and the subsequent new Clause after 23, the effect of which is that the duties imposed on search services vary depending on whether or not they are Category 2A services: this needs to be reflected in the provision about combined services (regulated user-to-user services that include public search services) in Clause 6.

Photo of Lord Moylan Lord Moylan Chair, Built Environment Committee, Chair, Built Environment Committee

My Lords, in moving my Amendment 13 I will speak to all the amendments in the group, all of which are in my name with the exception of Amendment 157 in the name of my noble friend Lord Pickles. These are interlinked amendments; they work together. There is effectively only one amendment going on. A noble Lord challenged me a day or two ago as to whether I could summarise in a sentence what the amendment does, and the answer is that I think I can: Clause 23 imposes various duties on search engines, and this amendment would remove one of those duties from search engines that fall into category 2B.

There are two categories of search engines, 2A and 2B, and category 2B is the smaller search engines. We do not know the difference between them in greater detail than that because the schedule that relates to them reserves to the Secretary of State the power to set the thresholds that will define which category a search engine falls into, but I think it is clear that category 2B is the smaller ones.

These amendments pursue a theme that I brought up in Committee earlier in the week when I argued that the Bill would put excessively onerous and unnecessary obligations on smaller businesses. The particular duty that these amendments would take away from smaller search engines is referred to in Clause 23(2):

“A duty, in relation to a service, to take or use proportionate measures relating to the design or operation of the service to effectively mitigate and manage the risks of harm to individuals, as identified in the most recent illegal content risk assessment of the service”.

The purpose of that is to recognise that very large numbers of smaller businesses do not pose a risk, according to the Government’s own assessment of the market, and to allow them to get on with their business without taking these onerous and difficult measures. They are probing amendments to try to find out what the Government are willing to do in relation to smaller businesses that will make this a workable Bill.

I can already imagine that there are noble Lords in the Chamber who will say that small does not equal safe, and that small businesses need to be covered by the same rigorous regulations as larger businesses. But I am not saying that small equals safe. I am saying—as I attempted to say when the Committee met earlier—that absolute safety is not attainable. It is not attainable in the real world, nor can we expect it to be attainable in the online world. I imagine that objection will be made. I see it has some force, but I do not think it has sufficient compelling force to put the sort of burden on small businesses that this Bill would do, and I would like to hear more about it.

I will say one other thing. Those who object to this approach need to be sure in their own minds that they are not contributing to creating a piece of legislation that, when it comes into operation, is so difficult to implement that it becomes discredited. There needs to be a recognition that this has to work in practice. If it does not—if it creates resentment and opposition—we will find the Government not bringing sections of it into force, needing to repeal them or going easy on them once the blowback starts, so to speak. With that, I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Deech Baroness Deech Crossbench

My Lords, I will speak to Amendment 157 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, and others, since the noble Lord is unavoidably absent. It is along the same lines as Amendment 13; it is relatively minor and straightforward, and asks the Government to recognise that search services such as Google are enormously important as an entry to the internet. They are different from social media companies such as Twitter. We ask that the Government be consistent in applying their stated terms when these are breached in respect of harm to users, whether that be through algorithms, through auto-prompts or otherwise.

As noble Lords will be aware, the Bill treats user-to-user services, such as Meta, and search services, such as Google, differently. The so-called third shield or toggle proposed for shielding users from legal but harmful content, should they wish to be shielded, does not apply when it comes to search services, important though they are. Indeed, at present, large, traditional search services, including Google and Microsoft Bing, and voice search assistants, including Alexa and Siri, will be exempted from several of the requirements for large user-to-user services—category 1 companies. Why the discrepancy? Though search services rightly highlight that the content returned by a search is not created or published by them, the algorithmic indexing, promotion and search prompts provided in search bars—the systems they design and employ—are their responsibility, and these have been proven to do harm.

Some of the examples of such harm have already been cited in the other place, but not before this Committee. I do not want to give them too much of an airing because they were in the past, and the search people have taken them down after complaints, but some of the dreadful things that emerge from searching on Google et cetera are a warning of what could occur. It has been pointed out that search engines would in the past have thrown up, for example, swastikas, SS bolts and other Nazi memorabilia when people searched for desk ornaments. If George Soros’s name came up, he would be included in a list of people responsible for world evils. The Bing service, which I dislike anyway, has been directing people—at last, it did in the past—to anti-Semitic and homophobic searches through its auto-complete, while Google’s image carousel highlighted pictures of portable barbecues to those searching for the term “Jewish baby stroller”.

These search engines, which are larger than some countries in terms of the funds they raise, should be treated in the same way as Meta, Twitter and others, knowing the harm that their systems can cause. The Joint Committee on the draft Bill, and Ministers in meetings with the APPG Against Antisemitism, have been clear that this is an issue and recognised that it needs addressing. I hope the Minister will agree that our amendment, or perhaps one similar to it that the Government might care to introduce in the next stages, would be a small, smart and meaningful technical fix to the Bill in addressing the unnecessary imbalance that allows major search companies to avoid protecting the public to the full extent that we, in the Bill, expect of other large companies. I hope that the Minister will agree to meet interested parties and to do the sensible and right thing about search engines.

Photo of Lord Weir of Ballyholme Lord Weir of Ballyholme DUP 12:00, 27 April 2023

My Lords, I also support Amendment 157, which stands in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, and others, including my own. As the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, indicated, it is specific in the nature of what it concentrates on. The greatest concern that arises through the amendment is with reference to category 2A. It is not necessarily incompatible with what the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, proposes; I do not intend to make any direct further comment on his amendments. While the amendment is specific, it has a resonance with some of the other issues raised on the Bill.

I am sure that everyone within this Committee would want to have a Bill that is as fit for purpose as possible. The Bill was given widespread support at Second Reading, so there is a determination across the Chamber to have that. Where we can make improvements to the Bill, we should do that and, as much as possible, try to future-proof the Bill. The wider resonance is the concern that if the Bill is to be successful, we need as much consistency and clarity within it as possible, particularly for users. Where we have a level of false dichotomy of regulations, that runs contrary to the intended purposes of the Bill and creates inadvertent opportunities for loopholes. As such, and as has been indicated, the concern is that in the Bill at present, major search engines are effectively treated in some of the regulations on a different basis from face-to-face users. For example, some of the provisions around risk assessment, the third shield and the empowerment tools are different.

As also indicated, we are not talking about some of the minor search engines. We are talking about some of the largest companies in the world, be it Google, Microsoft through Bing, Amazon through its devices or Apple through its Siri voice tool, so it is reasonable that they are brought into line with what is there is for face-to-face users. The amendment is therefore appropriate and the rationale for it is that there is a real-world danger. Mention has been made—we do not want to dwell too long on some of the examples, but I will use just one—of the realms of anti-Semitism, where I have a particular interest. For example, on search tools, a while ago there was a prompt within one search engine that Jews are evil. It was found that when that prompt was there, searches of that nature increased by 10% and when it was removed, they were reduced. It is quite fixable and it goes into a wide range of areas.

One of the ways in which technology has changed, I think for us all, is the danger that it can be abused by people who seek to radicalise others and make them extreme, particularly young children. Gone are the days when some of these extremists or terrorists were lonely individuals in an attic, with no real contact with the outside world, or hanging around occasionally in the high street while handing out poorly produced A4 papers with their hateful ideology. There is a global interconnection here and, in particular, search engines and face-to-face users can be used to try to draw young people into their nefarious activities.

I mentioned the example of extremism and radicalisation when it comes to anti-Semitism. I have seen it from my own part of the world, where there is at times an attempt by those who still see violence as the way forward in Northern Ireland to draw new generations of young people into extremist ideology and terrorist acts. There is an attempt to lure in young people and, sadly, search engines have a role within that, which is why we need to see that level of protection. Now, the argument from search engines is that they should have some level of exemptions. How can they be held responsible for everything that appears through their searches, or indeed through the web? But in terms of content, the same argument could be used for face-to-face users. It is right, as the proposer of this amendment has indicated, that there are things such as algorithmic indexing and prompt searches where they do have a level of control.

The use of algorithms has moved on considerably since my schooldays, as they surely have for everyone in this Committee, and I suspect that none of us felt that they would be used in such a fashion. We need a level of protection through an amendment such as this and, as its proposers, we are not doctrinaire on the precise form in which this should take place. We look, for example, at the provisions within Clause 11—we seek to hear what the Government have to say on that—which could potentially be used to regulate search engines. Ensuring that that power is given, and will be used by Ofcom, will go a long way to addressing many of the concerns.

I think all of us in this Committee are keen to work together to find the right solutions, but we feel that there is a need to make some level of change to the regulations that are required for search engines. None of us in this Committee believes that we will ultimately have a piece of legislation that reflects perfection, but there is a solemn duty on us all to produce legislation that is as fit for purpose and future-proofed as possible, while providing children in particular with the maximum protection in what is at times an ever-changing and sometimes very frightening world.

Photo of Baroness Kidron Baroness Kidron Crossbench

My Lords, I agree in part with the noble Lord, Lord Moylan. I was the person who said that small was not safe, and I still feel that. I certainly do not think that anything in the Bill will make the world online 100% safe, and I think that very few noble Lords do, so it is important to say that. When we talk about creating a high bar or having zero tolerance, we are talking about ensuring that there is a ladder within the Bill so that the most extreme cases have the greatest force of law trying to attack them. I agree with the noble Lord on that.

I also absolutely agree with the noble Lord about implementation: if it is too complex and difficult, it will be unused and exploited in certain ways, and it will have a bad reputation. The only part of his amendment that I do not agree with is that we should look at size. Through the process of Committee, if we can look at risk rather than size, we will get somewhere. I share his impatience—or his inquiry—about what categories 2A and 2B mean. If category 2A means the most risky and category 2B means those that are less risky, I am with him all the way. We need to look into the definition of what they mean.

Finally, I mentioned several times on Tuesday that we need to look carefully at Ofcom’s risk profiles. Is this the answer to dealing with where risk gets determined, rather than size?

Photo of Baroness Harding of Winscombe Baroness Harding of Winscombe Conservative

My Lords, I rise to speak along similar lines to the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron. I will address my noble friend Lord Moylan’s comments. I share his concern that we must not make the perfect the enemy of the good but, like the noble Baroness, I do not think that size is the key issue here, because of how tech businesses grow. Tech businesses are rather like building a skyscraper: if you get the foundations wrong, it is almost impossible to change how safe the building is as it goes up and up. As I said earlier this week, small tech businesses can become big very quickly, and, if you design your small tech business with the risks to children in mind at the very beginning, there is a much greater chance that your skyscraper will not wobble as it gets taller. On the other hand, if your small business begins by not taking children into account at all, it is almost impossible to address the problem once it is huge. I fear that this is the problem we face with today’s social media companies.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, hit the nail on the head, as she so often does, in saying that we need to think about risk, rather than size, as the means of differentiating the proportionate response. In Clause 23, which my noble friend seeks to amend, the important phrase is “use proportionate measures” in subsection (2). Provided that we start with a risk assessment and companies are then under the obligation to make proportionate adjustments, that is how you build safe technology companies—it is just like how you build safe buildings.

Photo of Lord Bethell Lord Bethell Conservative

My Lords, I will build on my noble friend’s comments. We have what I call the Andrew Tate problem. That famous pornographer and disreputable character started a business in a shed in Romania with a dozen employees. By most people’s assessment, it would have been considered a small business but, through his content of pornography and the physical assault of women, he extremely quickly built something that served an estimated 3 billion pages, and it has had a huge impact on the children of the English-speaking world. A small business became a big, nasty business very quickly. That anecdote reinforces the point that small does not mean safe, and, although I agree with many of my noble friend’s points, the lens of size is perhaps not the right one to look through.

Photo of Lord Allan of Hallam Lord Allan of Hallam Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Health)

My Lords, I did not want to interrupt the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, in full flow as he introduced the amendments, but I believe he made an error in terms of the categorisation. The error is entirely rational, because he took the logical position rather than the one in the Bill. It is a helpful error because it allows us to quiz the Minister on the rationale for the categorisation scheme.

As I read it, in Clause 86, the categories are: category 1, which is large user-to-user services; category 2A, which is search or combined services; and category 2B, which is small user-to-user services. To my boring and logical binary brain, I would expect it to be: “1A: large user-to-user”; “1B: small user-to-user”; “2A: large search”; and “2B: small search”. I am curious about why a scheme like that was not adopted and we have ended up with something quite complicated. It is not only that: we now have this Part 3/Part 5 thing. I feel that we will be confused for years to come: we will be deciding whether something is a Part 3 2B service or a Part 5 service, and we will end up with a soup of numbers and letters that do not conform to any normal, rational approach to the world.

I am sure that a rationale does underlie that—the people who wrote the legislation will of course have come up with the schema for a reason—but it is important to push on that, because we want our legislation to be intelligible to people out there. Again, it would be entirely logical to have a schema that says, “1A: large user-to-user; 1B: small user-to-user; 2A: large search; 2B: small search; and 3: pornographic”. If the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, has her way and we add extra services, we could make them categories 4 and 5, and we could have categories 4A and 4B.

Again, I hope that the Minister can take this opportunity to respond on the substance of whether there should be different requirements and to explain why we have that categorisation, where category 2B is small user-to-user services, category 1 is big user-to-user services and category 2A is search and combined services. That would probably not be the first assumption of most people in the House, and it has been bugging me since I first read the Bill, so it would be nice to get an answer today.

Photo of Baroness Merron Baroness Merron Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Health and Social Care), Shadow Spokesperson (Culture, Media and Sport) 12:15, 27 April 2023

My Lords, I welcome this debate, which revisits some of the areas discussed in earlier debates about the scope of the Bill, as many noble Lords said. It allows your Lordships’ House to consider what has to be the primary driver for assessment. In my view and as others said, it ought to be about risk, which has to be the absolute driver in all this. As the noble Baroness, Lady Harding, said, businesses do not remain static: they start at a certain size and then change. Of course, we hope that many of the businesses we are talking about will grow, so this is about preparation for growth and the reality of doing businesses.

As we discussed, there certainly are cases where search providers may, by their very nature, be almost immune from presenting users with content that could be considered either harmful or illegal under this legislative framework. The new clause proposed by the noble Lord, Lord Moylan—I am grateful to him for allowing us to explore these matters—and its various consequential amendments, would limit the duty to prevent access to illegal content to core category 2A search providers, rather than all search providers, as is currently the case under Clause 23(3).

The argument that I believe the noble Lord, Lord Moylan, put forward is that the illegal content duty is unduly wide, placing a disproportionate and otherwise unacceptable burden on smaller and/or supposedly safer search providers. He clearly said he was not saying that small was safe—that is now completely understood—but he also said that absolute safety is not achievable. As the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, said, that is indeed so. If this legislation is too complex and creates the wrong provisions, we will clearly be a long way away from our ambition, which here has to be to have in place the best legislative framework, one that everyone can work with and that provides the maximum opportunity for safety and what we all seek to achieve.

Of course, the flip side of the argument about an unacceptable burden on smaller, or on supposedly safer, search providers may be that they would in fact have very little work to do to comply with the illegal content duty, at least in the short term. But the duty would act as an important safeguard, should the provider’s usual systems prove ineffective with the passage of time. Again, that point was emphasised in this and the previous debate by the noble Baroness, Lady Harding.

We look forward to the Minister’s response to find out which view he and his department subscribe to or, indeed, whether they have another view they can bring to your Lordships’ House. But, on the face of it, the current arrangements do not appear unacceptably onerous.

Amendment 157 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Pickles, and introduced by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, deals with search by a different approach by inserting requirements about search services’ publicly available statements into Clause 65. In the debate, the noble Baroness and the noble Lord, Lord Weir, raised very important, realistic examples of where search engines can take us, including to material that encourages racism directed at Jews and other groups and encourages hatred of various groups, including Jews. The amendment talks about issues such as the changing of algorithms or the hiding of content and the need to ensure that the terms of providers’ publicly available statements are applied as consistently.

I look forward to hearing from the Minister in response to Amendment 157 as the tech certainly moves us beyond questions of scope and towards discussion of the conduct of platforms when harm is identified.

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

My Lords, I must first apologise for my slightly dishevelled appearance as I managed to spill coffee down my shirt on my way to the Chamber. I apologise for that—as the fumes from the dried coffee suffuse the air around me. It will certainly keep me caffeinated for the day ahead.

Search services play a critical role in users’ online experience, allowing them easily to find and access a broad range of information online. Their gateway function, as we have discussed previously, means that they also play an important role in keeping users safe online because they have significant influence over the content people encounter. The Bill therefore imposes stringent requirements on search services to tackle the risks from illegal content and to protect children.

Amendments 13, 15, 66 to 69 and 73 tabled by my noble friend Lord Moylan seek to narrow the scope of the Bill so that its safety search duties apply only to the largest search services—categorised in the Bill as category 2A services—rather than to all search services. Narrowing the scope in this way would have an adverse impact on the safety of people using search services, including children. Search services, including combined services, below the category 2A threshold would no longer have a duty to minimise the risk of users encountering illegal content or children encountering harmful content in or via search results. This would increase the likelihood of users, including children, accessing illegal content and children accessing harmful content through these services.

The Bill already takes a targeted approach and the duties on search services will be proportionate to the risk of harm and the capacity of companies. This means that services which are smaller and lower-risk will have a lighter regulatory burden than those which are larger and higher-risk. All search services will be required to conduct regular illegal content risk assessments and, where relevant, children’s risk assessments, and then implement proportionate mitigations to protect users, including children. Ofcom will set out in its codes of practice specific steps search services can take to ensure compliance and must ensure that these are proportionate to the size and capacity of the service.

The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, and my noble friend Lady Harding of Winscombe asked how search services should conduct their risk assessments. Regulated search services will have a duty to conduct regular illegal content risk assessments, and where a service is likely to be accessed by children it will have a duty to conduct regular children’s risk assessments, as I say. They will be required to assess the level and nature of the risk of individuals encountering illegal content on their service, to implement proportionate mitigations to protect people from illegal content, and to monitor them for effectiveness. Services likely to be accessed by children will also be required to assess the nature and level of risk of their service specifically for children to identify and implement proportionate mitigations to keep children safe, and to monitor them for effectiveness as well.

Companies will also need to assess how the design and operation of the service may increase or reduce the risks identified and Ofcom will have a duty to issue guidance to assist providers in carrying out their risk assessments. That will ensure that providers have, for instance, sufficient clarity about what an appropriate risk assessment looks like for their type of service.

The noble Lord, Lord Allan, and others asked about definitions and I congratulate noble Lords on avoiding the obvious

“To be, or not to be” pun in the debate we have just had. The noble Lord, Lord Allan, is right in the definition he set out. On the rationale for it, it is simply that we have designated as category 1 the largest and riskiest services and as category 2 the smaller and less risky ones, splitting them between 2A, search services, and 2B, user-to-user services. We think that is a clear framework. The definitions are set out a bit more in the Explanatory Notes but that is the rationale.

Photo of Lord Allan of Hallam Lord Allan of Hallam Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Health)

I am grateful to the Minister for that clarification. I take it then that the Government’s working assumption is that all search services, including the biggest ones, are by definition less risky than the larger user-to-user services. It is just a clarification that that is their thinking that has informed this.

Photo of Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Culture, Media and Sport)

As I said, the largest and riskiest sites may involve some which have search functions, so the test of large and most risky applies. Smaller and less risky search services are captured in category 2A.

Amendment 157 in the name of my noble friend Lord Pickles, and spoken to by the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, seeks to apply new duties on the largest search services. I agree with the objectives in my noble friend’s amendment of increasing transparency about the search services’ operations and enabling users to hold them to account. It is not, however, an amendment I can accept because it would duplicate existing duties while imposing new duties which we do not think are appropriate for search services.

As I say, the Bill will already require search services to set out how they are fulfilling their illegal content and child safety duties in publicly available statements. The largest search services—category 2A—will also be obliged to publish a summary of their risk assessments and to share this with Ofcom. That will ensure that users know what to expect on those search services. In addition, they will be subject to the Bill’s requirements relating to user reporting and redress. These will ensure that search services put in place effective and accessible mechanisms for users to report illegal content and content which is harmful to children.

My noble friend’s amendment would ensure that the requirements to comply with its publicly available statements applied to all actions taken by a search service to prevent harm, not just those relating to illegal content and child safety. This would be a significant expansion of the duties, resulting in Ofcom overseeing how search services treat legal content which is accessed by adults. That runs counter to the Government’s stated desire to avoid labelling legal content which is accessed by adults as harmful. It is for adult users themselves to determine what legal content they consider harmful. It is not for us to put in place measures which could limit their access to legal content, however distasteful. That is not to say, of course, that where material becomes illegal in its nature that we do not share the determination of the noble Baroness, my noble friend and others to make sure that it is properly tackled. The Secretary of State and Ministers have had extensive meetings with groups making representations on this point and I am very happy to continue speaking to my noble friend, the noble Baroness and others if they would welcome it.

I hope that that provides enough reassurance for the amendment to be withdrawn at this stage.

Photo of Lord Moylan Lord Moylan Chair, Built Environment Committee, Chair, Built Environment Committee 12:30, 27 April 2023

My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. I hope that the noble Baroness, Lady Deech, and the noble Lord, Lord Weir of Ballyholme, will forgive me if I do not comment on the amendment they spoke to in the name of my noble friend Lord Pickles, except to say that of course they made their case very well.

I will briefly comment on the remarks of the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron. I am glad to see a degree of common ground among us in terms of definitions and so forth—a small piece of common ground that we could perhaps expand in the course of the many days we are going to be locked up together in your Lordships’ House.

I am grateful too to the noble Lord, Lord Allan of Hallam. I am less clear on “2B or not 2B”, if that is the correct way of referring to this conundrum, than I was before. The noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, said that size does not matter and that it is all about risk, but my noble friend the Minister cunningly conflated the two and said at various points “the largest” and “the riskiest”. I do not see why the largest are necessarily the riskiest. On the whole, if I go to Marks & Spencer as opposed to going to a corner shop, I might expect rather less risk. I do not see why the two run together.

I address the question of size in my amendment because that is what the Bill focuses on. I gather that the noble Baroness, Lady Kidron, may want to explore at some stage in Committee why that is the case and whether a risk threshold might be better than a size threshold. If she does that, I will be very interested in following and maybe even contributing to that debate. However, at the moment, I do not think that any of us is terribly satisfied with conflating the two—that is the least satisfactory way of explaining and justifying the structure of the Bill.

On the remarks of my noble friend Lady Harding of Winscombe, I do not want in the slightest to sound as if there is any significant disagreement between us—but there is. She suggested that I was opening the way to businesses building business models “not taking children into account at all”. My amendment is much more modest than that. There are two ways of dealing with harm in any aspect of life. One is to wait for it to arrive and then to address it as it arises; the other is constantly to look out for it in advance and to try to prevent it arising. The amendment would leave fully in place the obligation to remove harm, which is priority illegal content or other illegal content, that the provider knows about, having been alerted to it by another person or become aware of it in any other way. That duty would remain. The duty that is removed, especially from small businesses—and really this is quite important—is the obligation constantly to be looking out for harm, because it involves a very large, and I suggest possibly ruinous, commitment to constant monitoring of what appears on a search engine. That is potentially prohibitive, and it arises in other contexts in the Bill as well.

There should be occasions when we can say that knowing that harmful stuff will be removed as soon as it appears, or very quickly afterwards, is adequate for our purposes, without requiring firms to go through a constant monitoring or risk-assessment process. The risk assessment would have to be adjudicated by Ofcom, I gather. Even if no risk was found, of course, that would not be the end of the matter, because I am sure that Ofcom would, very sensibly, require an annual renewal of that application, or after a certain period, to make sure that things had not changed. So even to escape the burden is quite a large burden for small businesses, and then to implement the burden is so onerous that it could be ruinous, whereas taking stuff down when it appears is much easier to do.

Photo of Baroness Harding of Winscombe Baroness Harding of Winscombe Conservative

Perhaps I might briefly come in. My noble friend Lord Moylan may have helped explain why we disagree: our definition of harm is very different. I am most concerned that we address the cumulative harms that online services, both user-to-user services and search, are capable of inflicting. That requires us to focus on the design of the service, which we need to do at the beginning, rather than the simpler harm that my noble friend is addressing, which is specific harmful content—not in the sense in which “content” is used in the Bill but “content” as in common parlance; that is, a piece of visual or audio content. My noble friend makes the valid point that that is the simplest way to focus on removing specific pieces of video or text; I am more concerned that we should not exclude small businesses from designing and developing their services such that they do not consider the broader set of harms that are possible and that add up to the cumulative harm that we see our children suffering from today.

So I think our reason for disagreement is that we are focusing on a different harm, rather than that we violently disagree. I agree with my noble friend that I do not want complex bureaucratic processes imposed on small businesses; they need to design their services when they are small, which makes it simpler and easier for them to monitor harm as they grow, rather than waiting until they have grown. That is because the backwards re-engineering of a technology stack is nigh-on impossible.

Photo of Lord Moylan Lord Moylan Chair, Built Environment Committee, Chair, Built Environment Committee

My noble friend makes a very interesting point, and there is much to ponder in it—too much to ponder for me to respond to it immediately. Since I am confident that the issue is going to arise again during our sitting in Committee, I shall allow myself the time to reflect on it and come back later.

While I understand my noble friend’s concern about children, the clause that I propose to remove is not specific to children; it relates to individuals, so it covers adults as well. I think I understand what my noble friend is trying to achieve—I shall reflect on it—but this Bill and the clauses we are discussing are a very blunt way of going at it and probably need more refinement even than the amendments we have seen tabled so far. But that is for her to consider.

I think this debate has been very valuable. I did not mention it, but I am grateful also for the contribution from the noble Baroness, Lady Merron. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 13 withdrawn.

Photo of Baroness Deech Baroness Deech Crossbench

Having listened to the Minister, I think we need clarification on the issue of duplication and what is illegal as opposed to just harmful. If we can clarify that, I shall not move my Amendment 157.

Photo of Lord Beith Lord Beith Deputy Chairman of Committees

When we come to Amendment 157, that will be noted.