Government's Flagship Online Safety Bill Set To Be Dropped From Commons Business
The government's flagship Online Safety Bill is set to be dropped from Commons business next week with a view for it to return to the Commons “in the autumn".
PoliticsHome understands that the Bill was removed from the government's agenda to make space for a motion of no confidence in the governmen due to be put to the House on Monday.
Concerns have been raised by supporters of the Bill that it could be subsequently scrapped as its return later this year will be dependent on the focus of the new Prime Minister.
The Bill aimed to allow Ofcom to regulate online platforms, mainly enforcing companies’ terms of conditions on certain types of harmful content that is legal.
It aimed to introduce fines for digital companies if they do not comply with new regulations, and prison sentences could also be handed down to senior managers if they continue to breach regulations.
A government source said: “Labour reduced the amount of time for genuine parliamentary business so they could play politics. They are reaping what they sowed.”
Backers of the bill have called for it to be used to place limits on "harmful" pornography and content promoting "extreme diets".
But its opponents, which include Conservative party leadership contender Kemi Badenoch, have warned it “is going to have some serious implications for free speech”.
“I am not going to be supporting it in its present form," she claimed at a hustings event on Tuesday.
“Free speech is no longer something we can take for granted as a commonly shared value and this shift in attitudes has [caused] some dramatic, real-world events.
She continued: "There have been many incidents in universities of events disrupted, closed down, or speakers being uninvited because their views are seen as too controversial.”
A source at the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport denied that the Bill was being dropped.
Andy Burrows, Head of Child Safety Online Policy at the NSPCC, said: “The Online Safety Bill is a crucial piece of legislation that is fundamentally about protecting children from harm and abuse that is taking place on an industrial scale on social media.
“Any delay will mean families continue to pay the price for the failure and inaction of tech firms who have allowed harm to fester rather than get their house in order.
“Online regulation is therefore vital to force their hand and delivering this legislation should be a cornerstone of any Government’s duty to keep the most vulnerable in our society safe.”
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