Clause 15 - Duties to protect content of democratic importance

Part of Online Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:30 pm on 7th June 2022.

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Photo of Chris Philp Chris Philp The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 4:30 pm, 7th June 2022

I will answer the point now, as it has been raised. Clause 150 categorically does not give a get-out-of-jail-free card or provide an automatic excuse. Clearly, there is no way that abusing a candidate for elected office with rape threats and so on could possibly be considered a matter of public interest. In fact, even if the abuse somehow could be considered as possibly contributing to public debate, clause 150(5) says explicitly in line 32 on page 127:

“but that does not determine the point”.

Even where there is some potentially tenuous argument about a contribution to a matter of public interest, which most definitely would not be the case for the rape threats that have been described, that is not determinative. It is a balancing exercise that gets performed, and I hope that puts the hon. Lady’s mind at rest.