Unfortunately, due to time constraints, a number of MPs, including Kim, were not able to speak during the Second Reading of the Online Safety Bill. Kim spoke in favour of Zach’s law and her intervention can be viewed here. The below is the short speech which Kim intended to deliver during the debate:
Thank you Mr Speaker.
I’d like to start by thanking the Minister and his team for the constructive engagement regarding this piece of legislation that I believe is both necessary and long-overdue.
I rise today to speak in favour of the Bill but express my hope that it can be strengthened and expanded during the committee stage as it passes through the House.
In particular, following meetings I have had with Hope not Hate recently, I wish to raise my concerns regarding the regulation of smaller online co-opted and bespoke platforms such as Telegram, Gab, BitChute and most recently, GETTR which are sadly a breeding ground for far-right extremism.
These platforms are full of toxic, harmful and dangerous content that I believe are serving to spread fear, dangerous disinformation and ultimately to radicalise people. These platforms are easy to access, they appear like any other mainstream messaging platform, and they ultimately normalise the dangerous content that they are hosting.
Under this legislation, larger, mainstream platforms such as Twitter and Facebook are more obligated to deal with this content. But those who analyse the online messaging world, like Hope Not Hate, will tell you that the risk of real harm is often hosted on these smaller, emerging platforms that this legislation does not adequately cover.
As the 5Rights Foundation, who work towards a digital world that is safe for children and young people state – just because a digital service is small, that doesn’t mean it’s safe and this legislation should cover any online space where dangerous content is being hosted.
Children, and indeed adults, require protection wherever they are online.
I’d also like to touch on two possible loopholes in this legislation.
Those of “journalistic content exemption” and “democratically important content”.
Whilst I agree about the importance of protecting freedom of speech, we cannot allow far right and other extremist voices to declare themselves as journalists or stand as political candidates to propagate their harm online and escape scrutiny.
Content and accounts that have been removed from mainstream platforms for breaking terms of service should not be allowed to return to these platforms via this potential loopholes.
So I implore the Minister to bring forward amendments during committee or confirm at the despatch box whether it is deemed possible for “journalistic content” or “democratically important content” to cause harm under this Bill?
Ultimately, whilst it might not be perfect, I believe that with the right amendments this Bill will not make the online space any worse than it currently is, and it can go some way to introducing the regulation needed for the digital and social media age we live in.
But I will finish by saying that if we are to seriously tackle extremism, hate and online harms in the long term, whilst also protecting freedom of speech, this is an area of law which must be closely monitored and kept under review.