Tuesday 14 December 2021 / 12:01 AM Digital / Lucy Powell

Labour calls out Boris Johnson’s broken promises on online harms

As the Joint Select Committee on the Online Safety Bill publishes their report today [Tuesday], Labour has criticised Boris Johnson for breaking yet another promise, to bring the Online Safety Bill to the Commons before Christmas.

Current regulation is from the analogue age and lags far, far behind the digital age in which most of us all now live.

At Prime Ministers Questions on 20 October 2021, Boris Johnson promised to “ensure that we bring forward [the online safety bill] before Christmas.”

After ten years of a ‘digital free for all’, and almost four years after the Government promised action on online safety, the Government has yet again delayed action.

Thanks to delays, children will not be protected from harmful content, including extreme pornography, over the holidays. The Bill also does not go far enough – older people doing their Christmas shopping online will not be protected from fraud and scams even once the Bill is in place.

The Joint Committee has today recommended:

  • The Government should hold online services to account for the design and operation of their systems. Regulation should be governed by a democratic legislature and an independent regulator, not Silicon Valley
  • The Online Safety Bill be easy to understand for service providers and the public, have clear objectives that lead into precise duties on the providers, with robust powers for the regulator to act when the platforms fail to meet those legal and regulatory requirements
  • The Government update criminal law relating to online communications, in line with the Law Commission’s recommendations

Lucy Powell MPLabour’s Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said:

“The Joint Committee’s report is welcome and will help improve how the internet is governed.

“Social media companies have for too long gotten away with facilitating harmful content online. Current regulation is from the analogue age and lags far, far behind the digital age in which most of us all now live.

“The Prime Minister’s failure to bring forward the Online Harms Bill by Christmas is yet another broken promise. The Government must now urgently act to strengthen its proposals and bring them to Parliament to prevent more and more people becoming victims online.”