Ministers ‘very aware’ of desire to progress Online Harms Bill

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Ministers ‘very aware’ of desire to progress Online Harms Bill

Baroness Morgan told ATP event at the Tory conference she 'would like to get on with' the legislation, but it is 'complicated' in nature

Tali is a reporter at Jewish News

Screenshot from the ATP event
Screenshot from the ATP event

Baroness Nicky Morgan has said ministers will be “very aware” of the clamour to progress legislation tackling online hate, saying she expected those calls to grow in Westminster over the coming months.

During an Antisemitism Policy Trust event at Conservative party conference, Baroness Morgan claimed that while she personally “would like to get on with it”, people will have to wait for the Online Harms Bill due to its “complicated” nature.

A number of Jewish organisations have called for the forthcoming Online Harms Bill to recognise the need for Facebook and Twitter to adopt the IHRA definition.

Home Office Minister Victoria Atkins, who is responsibility for safeguarding, has made it clear that the government is due to give a full response to the Online Harms White Paper consultation this autumn.

Speaking at the Board of Deputies of British Jews Conservative party conference event, the Home Office Minister said she would imagine that “any independent regulator will look very, very carefully” at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition of antisemitism.

Baroness Morgan said that she would expect any future amendments to the legislation to include “senior management (of social media platforms), as in financial service industries and others, having personal liability”.

She added: “We do believe in free speech and the free press in this country, and we do believe, up to a point, in the right to offend others.

“But there does come a point where the societal impacts of what is allowed to spread unchecked is so massive and so detrimental, and social media, particularly Twitter but other platforms too, has become part of the public space, the public square of debate. The answer is definitely not to say well if you don’t like it then leave”.

You can watch the ATP’s event here:

פורסם על ידי ‏‎Antisemitism Policy Trust‎‏ ב- יום שני, 5 באוקטובר 2020

Speaking at the same event, Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust, said she agreed with Baroness Morgan’s hope for senior corporate responsibility in legislation. Mrs Pollock said she wanted to see a change from consequences only being seen in high-profile public cases – like in the rapper Wiley’s antisemitic rants –or when an individual has the backing of an organisation behind them.

However, Robert Halfon MP, chair of Parliament’s education select committee, said that while he supported the recent 48-hour long boycott of social media, organised by grassroots Jewish organisations after the rapper Wiley’s antisemitic rants, he warned that groups have to be “very careful” over similar actions in the future.

At the Board of Deputies event, Mr Halfon said: “Every time you boycott a social media company you give space to those who promote online hate. It gives them more space than they already have.

“I would use boycotts very sparingly.”

You can watch the Board event here.

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