Communal figures have admitted there is “growing concern” about mounting criticism within the Tory Party of legislation designed to punish social media giants for failing to tackle online hate, including antisemitism.
At Conservative Party conference in Manchester this week there were several events at which leading Tories raised concerns over the Online Safety Bill, which is currently going through parliament.
Baroness Claire Fox used a fringe event put on by the pro-free market Adam Smith Institute on Tuesday to blast the proposals as “frightening” and “dangerous.”
She was joined other speakers at the event who suggested attempts to regulate the internet were “un-Conservative” and “something Jeremy Corbyn’s government would introduce.”
Meanwhile a Young Conservative member at a fringe event with party chair Oliver Dowden said the Online Safety Bill and the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill currently being pushed by ministers were “very authoritarian” and “antithetical to Conservative values of liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of protest, freedom of thought”.
When asked for her thoughts on the proposals, which are set to become law in 2023, Nadine Dorries, the new Culture Secretary stressed she wished to protect free speeech, while the same time protect children from expoitation on social media.
Dowden, who was replaced as Culture Secretary earlier this month, said on Tuesday tht the Online Safety Bill was being introduced because of “appalling cases” of young people with algorithms pointing them to harmful content on the internet.
“I think it’s always been the responsibility of Conservative governments to intervene in to protect people in those circumstances,” he said.
But the party chair added: “I’m absolutely clear in doing so we should uphold freedom of speech, freedom of expression. I put in strong safeguards in regards to freedom of speech and expression. It is a challenge to tread that line.”
Commumal organisations, including the Antisemitism Policy Trust, the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council, have called for tough regulation to punish social media companies who fail to prevent antisemitic hate being spread online.
Both the Labour Party and the Lib Dems have also called for the proposals to be strengthened.
One communal source at this week’s Tory conference admitted there had been “a strong move towards a more free market, non interfering position” amongst some members of the party this week.
“It’s a growing concern,” said the source. “Hopefully meetings with the new Culture Secretary can provide reassurance.”
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.