Internet: Safety

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport written question – answered on 24th March 2021.

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Photo of Chi Onwurah Chi Onwurah Shadow Minister (Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport)

To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, with reference to the Oral Statement of 16 March 2021, Official Report, column 175 on Integrated Review, what legislative proposals on powers to tackle (a) collective online harms and (b) threats to democracy will be contained in the online safety bill.

Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister of State

The Government is clear that the new online harms regulatory framework must be targeted and proportionate. As announced in the full government response to the Online Harms White Paper, published in December, our new laws will apply to content or activity which could cause significant physical or psychological harm to an individual. The duty of care will apply to threats to our democracy, including some disinformation and misinformation content where this meets the definition of harm.

The duty of care will not apply to content and activity which only causes harm to society in general as this would be difficult to define and could incentivise excessive takedown of legal material. It is essential that the legislative measures also uphold and protect freedom of expression online. An overly broad scope risks imposing disproportionate regulatory burdens and could dilute efforts to tackle the most serious illegal activity including CSEA and terrorist content.

However, it is, and it always will be, an absolute priority to protect our democratic and electoral processes. That is why the Government has robust systems in place to protect the UK against foreign interference. These bring together government, civil society and private sector organisations to monitor and respond to interference, in whatever form it takes, to ensure our democracy stays open, vibrant and transparent.

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