It is very disturbing that the plan for Parliament to discuss our nations new Online Safety Bill next week has now been postponed until the autumn, when a new Prime Minister is expected to be in place. The Online Safety Bill was originally due to be dealt with last year and it is one of the landmark pieces of legislation of this government that is about to close for the Summer. There is a real risk that when the new Prime Minister is elected that they will delay this and indeed other aspects, partly because they have to reorganise the Government and indeed that they may well then focus on the next General Election in the same way that Boris Johnson did in July 2019. The Online Safety Bill was making its way through Parliament and was scheduled to be passed now. A magazine article I have read about this by the Institute of Engineering and Technology states
Hailed as groundbreaking regulation of the tech sector, the Online Safety Bill would force social media and other user-generated content-based sites to remove illegal material from their platforms, with a particular emphasis on protecting children from harmful content. The bill would also ensure the largest content platforms – such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter – are responsible for removing forms of “legal but harmful” content that promote self-harm or eating disorders, facing fines of up to £18m, or 10 per cent of their annual global turnover, should they fail to do so. The delay has sparked a debate over the importance of the legislation, with some campaigners labelling it as a “devastating blow” for online safety while others have perceived it as an opportunity to amend the bill’s approach.
It is very concerning that Johnson has delayed this and one has to wonder why he has chosen to block it now, given that it is very much needed?