Clause 21 - Record-keeping and review duties

Part of Online Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 13 December 2022.

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Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister (Tech, Gambling and the Digital Economy) 4:00, 13 December 2022

Given that there are few changes to this clause from when the Bill was amended in the previous Public Bill Committee, I will be brief. We in the Opposition are clear that record-keeping and review duties on in-scope services make up an important function of the regulatory regime and sit at the very heart of the Online Safety Bill. We must push platforms to transparently report all harms identified and the action taken in response, in line with regulation.

The requirements to keep records of the action taken in response to harm will be vital in supporting the regulator in making effective decisions about regulatory breaches and on whether the company responses are sufficient. They will also be vital to understanding the success of the regime once it is in place. We see the clause as central to preventing concerns over the under-reporting of harms to evade regulation.

We already know that under-reporting exists. We only have to turn to the testimony of many whistleblowers—colleagues will be aware of those who have bravely shared their concerns over the lack of transparency in this space—to know that we are often not presented with the full picture on the scale of the harm.

Labour has not sought to amend the clause, but one again I must reiterate a point that we have pushed on numerous occasions—namely, the importance of requiring in-scope services to publish their risk assessments. The Government have refused on a number of occasions to understand the significance of the level of transparency, but it could bring great benefits, as it would allow researchers and civil society to track harms and hold services to account. Again, I push the Minister and urge him to stress that the risk assessments are published.