New online laws cracking down on fake news will make UK the ‘safest place to surf the net’, ministers insist
- The Online Safety Bill will be debated by MPs this week, amid censoring worries
- The laws aim to target fake news, online criminals and make the internet safer
- There are concerns the bill is ‘flawed’ and would let MPs control online content
New safety laws to crack down on fake news on the internet will leave no hiding place for online criminals, Ministers said last night.
They sought to calm fears about the proposed rules by insisting they will protect young internet users and target online crooks.
Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said the ‘ground-breaking’ Bill ‘will make the UK the safest place to surf the web’.
She also unveiled a Media Literacy Taskforce to help vulnerable and ‘hard-to-reach’ people understand what they read online.
The Online Safety Bill, to be debated by MPs this week, has sparked concerns that it could damage Press freedom and lead to legitimate online content being censored.
Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries’ (pictured) new Online Safety Bill aims to make the UK ‘the safest place to surf the web’, but there are concerns it could lead to online censorship
Tory MP David Davis (pictured) has expressed his concerns, he said if the same Bill was introduced by Putin, it would be ‘rightly condemned’
Senior Tory MP David Davis said the ‘seriously flawed’ Bill would still allow a Minister ‘and a few MPs’ to decide what could be published online in some cases.
The former Brexit Secretary added: ‘If Vladimir Putin came up with something like this, we’d rightly condemn it.’
The new online regime, to be debated by MPs this week, aims to crack down on false and harmful information on the internet by requiring social media platforms, search engines and websites to beef up protection for users.
Companies failing to comply face fines of up to 10 per cent of their annual global turnover as well as being forced to improve their practices and block non-compliant sites.
But defenders of free speech say the threat of huge fines will cause tech companies such as Google and Facebook to censor legitimate content, stifle public debate and harm Press freedom.
They fear the companies’ algorithms will take down legitimate news stories on issues such as terrorism and child abuse.
The News Media Association, which represents news publishers, called on Ministers to go further and ensure news publisher content is ‘entirely and clearly out of scope’.
Alison Gow, former president of the Society of Editors, echoed calls for an exemption for news publishers, warning the Bill could otherwise ‘stifle’ newspapers.
Ministers insist there are major safeguards for journalism, saying journalists will get a fast-tracked right to appeal if any content is removed. They also say they are prepared to make improvements to the Bill as it debated in Parliament.
However, MPs have warned that as many as 20,000 tech businesses will be ‘within scope’ of the new legislation, and it could affect websites which advertise holidays and restaurants and allow users to leave reviews.