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

Clearly, if a communication is sufficiently offensive that it meets the criminal threshold, it is covered, and that would obviously harm the democratic process as well. If a communication was sufficiently offensive that it breached the harmful communication offence in clause 150, it would also, by definition, harm the democratic process, so communications that are damaging to democracy would axiomatically be caught by one thing or the other. I find it difficult to imagine a communication that might be considered damaging to democracy but that would not meet one of those two criteria, so that it was not illegal and would not meet the definition of a harmful communication.

My main point is that the existing provisions in the Bill address the kinds of behaviours that were described in those two speeches—the illegal content provisions, and the new harmful communication offence in clause 150. On that basis, I hope the hon. Member for Batley and Spen will withdraw the amendment, safe in the knowledge that the Bill addresses the issue that she rightly and reasonably raises.