A Joint Committee of Parliament set up to scrutinise the UK’s Online Safety Bill has set out its stall this week by asking the public for their views on the draft legislation. The Bill, published by the government in draft form in May 2021, is designed to establish a new regulatory framework to tackle harmful content online.
The Committee will be chaired by Damian Collins MP, the former chair of House of Commons DCMS Select Committee, whose seminal inquiry on Disinformation and ‘fake news’ recommended tougher action on online hate speech and greater regulation of social media companies, including Facebook.
The Committee, who will report its findings to the Government before 10 December 2021, is asking the public for their views on whether the draft law will achieve its aim of making the UK ‘the safest place to be online.’ The Committee are specifically seeking views on how the Bill compares to online safety legislation in other countries, and whether it represents a threat to freedom of expression. Anyone with views on the Bill can submit them via the Committee’s website.
Damian Collins MP, Chair of the Joint Committee on the Online Safety Bill, said: “The Online Safety Bill is about finally putting a legal framework around hate speech and harmful content, and ultimately holding the tech giants to account for the role their technology plays in promoting it.
“The next step in this process is the detailed scrutiny of the draft Bill. This is a once in a generation piece of legislation that will update our laws for the digital age.
“We now have a super committee of MPs and peers, highly experienced in this area who will work together to go through this Bill line by line to make sure it’s fit for purpose. Freedom of speech is at the heart of our democracy, but so is fighting against movements that seeks to harm and dehumanise people. In the social media age we have not yet got that balance right, and now is the time to fix it.”
The members of the Committee have a vast range of experience in this policy area, and are as follows:
From the House of Commons:
- Damian Collins MP (Chair) (Con) former Chair of the House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee, and current Chair of the APPGs for Media Freedom and Media Literacy
- Debbie Abrahams MP (Lab) current member House of Commons Work and Pensions Committee
- Darren Jones MP (Lab) current Chair of the House of Commons Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee, Co-chair, APPG Parliamentary Information, Communications and Technology Forum, Chair of the APPG on Technology and National Security and Chair of the APPG on Data Poverty
- John Nicolson MP (SNP) Shadow SNP Spokesperson for DCMS, current member House of Commons Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee
- Dean Russell MP (Con) current member Joint Committee on Human Rights and House of Commons Select Committee on Health and Social Care, Chair of the APPG on Digital Health and the APPG on Digital IDs
- Suzanne Webb MP (Con) current member House of Commons Procedure Committee, PPS for Department for International Trade and Women and Equalities
From the House of Lords:
- Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab) current member House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee
- Lord Black of Brentwood (Con) current member House of Lords Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee
- Lord Clement-Jones (Lib Dem) Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson for Digital
- Baroness Kidron (Cross bench) current member of the House of Lords Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee
- Lord Knight of Weymouth (Lab) current member House of Lords Democracy and Digital Technologies Committee
- Lord Gilbert of Panteg (Con) Chair of the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee