Online Harms — [Sir Edward Leigh in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:18 pm on 7th October 2020.

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Photo of Stephen Doughty Stephen Doughty Shadow Minister (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and International Development) 3:18 pm, 7th October 2020

It is a pleasure to see you in the Chair, Sir Edward. I congratulate my hon. Friend Holly Lynch on securing today’s debate. These issues are absolutely crucial; I have spoken about them many times in this place, particularly during my time on the Select Committee on Home Affairs, and have exposed gross failures by social media companies on a number of occasions. Of course, this goes well beyond the usual suspects. We have heard today about a range of sites, including gaming sites, BitChute, Gab, Discord and others that are less well known than the YouTubes, Facebooks, Instagrams and Twitters of this world. Even Tripadvisor, I have been told, was being used to share links to extremist content, which I am sure many of us find absolutely shocking.

I am also informed very much by my experiences in my Cardiff South and Penarth constituency over the last eight years. I have seen online videos glamorising drugs gangs and violence not removed due to claims of freedom of expression. These were videos that showed young people dripping in blood disposing of evidence after stabbing somebody—a simulated event, but one that was clearly glorifying utterly unacceptable and disgusting behaviour. I have seen jihadi organisations recruiting and spreading their messages of terror, including proscribed organisations, and other obvious ones such as Radio Aryan given the freedom to operate and spread their message of hate by YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and others, not taken off. I have seen online attacks on black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, antisemitism, Islamophobia, and attacks on the LGBT+ community. I have had my own experience of such online attacks, including threats about real-world events, and having to deal with those through the police.

My hon. Friend Chris Elmore spoke about fake news, whether that is anti-vax, about 5G or about foreign powers spreading disinformation in our country. I am told that the Russian state, for example, seeded 32 separate narratives about the poisoning of the Skripals and its shameful activities with chemical weapons on our own soil, in order to spread disinformation.

We have heard about the huge damage to mental health, as well as issues such as cyber-stalking and the activities of paedophiles, but I want to draw the House’s attention to two specific issues today regarding the extreme right wing. The first is an organisation called the British Hand. Children as young as 12 are being drawn into extreme far-right groups, often by peers of a similar age, through the ease of anonymous social media accounts on bespoke sites such as Discord and Telegram, but also through Instagram, YouTube and Facebook. One particular cell, exposed by Hope Not Hate, is the British Hand group, allegedly led by a 15-year-old in Derby who recruits through Instagram and Telegram to encourage acts of violence, particularly against migrants. The group has been sharing videos of the Christchurch shooting and pro-national action material, which is readily available on its Instagram page and through private group chats, instigating members to commit acts of violence, to join organisations such as, I am sorry to say, Sir Edward, the Army and the Army cadets, and to participate in the study of homemade weapons. That group must be dealt with and I hope the Minister will have something to say about them.

Secondly, there is the Order of Nine Angles. Alongside my hon. Friend Stephanie Peacock, I have repeatedly called for the group to be banned. On 12 September, Mohamed-Aslim Zafis was sitting outside his mosque in Toronto when he was stabbed to death. The Canadian Anti-Hate Network has uncovered the alleged perpetrator, William Von Neutegem, is linked to the far right and particularly the Nazi satanist group the Order of Nine Angles. The group spread their message on YouTube using videos with references to neo-Nazism and the occult, and with chanting, a nine-pointed star and the monolith of a homemade altar associated with Order of Nine Angles ceremonies. This comes after serious events in the United States as well. They need to be banned. Hope Not Hate has been doing excellent work on this and I declare my interest as a supporter of theirs in Parliament.

This problem has got to be dealt with. We cannot see any more delay from the Government, either in banning these organisations or bringing forward online harms legislation. We cannot wait until 2023; this was needed years ago. It is needed in all of the areas that Members have spoken about today, but I would particularly like to see a focus on these extreme right organisations that have been given such a free rein.