Nickie Aiken, Member of Parliament for the Cities of London & Westminster, today welcomed the Online Safety Bill in the House of Commons.
The Bill establishes a new regulatory regime to address illegal and harmful content online. It imposes duties of care in relation to illegal content and content that is harmful to children on social media platforms and on providers of search engines. It also gives the communications regulator OFCOM the powers they need to hold them to account.
You can read the speech that Nickie gave in support of the Bill below.
There is much to welcome in the Queen’s Speech that will make our streets safer, but in the short time that I have today—although I recognise that I have an extra minute—I want to strongly welcome the focus in the Gracious Speech on online safety.
Life on the internet should mirror what is and what is not acceptable offline. Very few people would abuse someone standing in the street, so why do it online?
The draft Online Safety Bill signals a step-change for tech responsibility, bringing fairness and accountability to the online world. Placing children’s safety at the heart of this legislation is absolutely right.
In the UK, more than 10,000 offenders are caught every year involved in grooming and downloading indecent images of children. That 50 years ago we put a man on the moon, but in the third decade of the 21st century we cannot even prevent the uploading of toddlers and babies being abused is beyond me. It is shameful that it has to be this Government to bring forward legislation to protect children from online paedophiles. It is partly because the platforms themselves pay only lip service to protection.
If left unchecked, a hostile online environment can spill into concerning real-world actions. This has been made clear in the degree of antisemitism seen both online and offline in the past week. I was appalled by a briefing that I received from the London Jewish Forum, which provided evidence of antisemitism both in professional settings and on university campuses.
The current conflict in the Middle East has triggered new spikes of antisemitism both online and offline in this country.
As it currently stands in the draft Bill, only the largest and most popular platforms will be required to act on content that is harmful to adults. That risks the most harmful content just moving to less prolific sites. Parliament must protect the most vulnerable and ensure that the Bill compels all platforms, regardless of their reach, to remove harmful content and include robust digital policing.
I also hope that this Bill will give Ofcom the powers it needs to hold the platforms to account. I welcome the decision to include elements of economic crime within the scope of the Bill.
I am proud that City of London police, based in my constituency, is the national lead for economic and cyber-crime. Sadly, fraud is the fastest growing area of crime in the UK, with City of London police currently receiving more than 800,000 reports a year.
The inclusion of fraud in the Bill will provide much-needed encouragement, particularly for online retailers and auction sites, to take responsibility for protecting users and implementing counter-fraud strategies to prevent malicious content.
Our digital safety is just as important as our physical safety. I welcome the Bills outlined in this Queen’s Speech, which I think will make us all safer and—equally importantly—make us feel safer, whether we are online or walking in the street."
You can also watch Nickie’s speech above.