Monday 7 December 2020 / 9:14 AM Jo Stevens

‘Once in a generation’ opportunity to protect people online must not be wasted Labour warns

‘Once in a generation’ opportunity to protect people online must not be wasted Labour warns


Labour is calling for social media firms to be fined and prosecuted if they fail to tackle anti-vaxx disinformation.


The upcoming online harms bill should give the proposed regulator power to issue financial penalties if platforms fail to remove harmful disinformation. Where there are persistent breaches of the law, senior company executives should face criminal penalties, the party says.


Labour wants measures to tackle currently legal, but clearly harmful content including such as that which encourages or shows people to how to self-harm or commit suicide.


Measures must also be included which protect children and use of their data.


The party has worked with Ian Russell, whose daughter Molly tragically killed herself after viewing social media posts about self-harm and then having more and more depression and suicide-promoting material pushed to her by the algorithm on Instagram and through suggested content on other platforms.


Labour wants to ensure that companies have a duty of care to users so no one should be on the receiving end of content which encourages self-harm, promotes hate speech or spreads disinformation.


Labour believes in a principles-based approach to regulation with a legal duty of care on platforms for the content they host and amplify, warning that the law must be able to keep up with the changing threat.


The Government is set to publish its response to the Online Harms White Paper more than 18 months after it first promised.

It comes after ministers ignored offers from Labour to work cross-party on emergency legislation protecting the public from harmful anti-vaxx disinformation.


Shadow Secretary of State for Digital, Jo Stevens MP, said:

“The long-awaited online harms bill is a once in a generation opportunity to tackle these dangerous elements of the internet which have real-world consequences.


“We need the Government to take this seriously whether it is hate speech, disinformation or self-harm content.


“The internet should be a safe place for everyone and this legislation must be ambitious in its scope.”