According to today’s Sun and the i newspaper, the Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan will shortly bring back the Online Safety Bill, but without the hated ‘legal but harmful’ clause. Here’s how the i reports it:
i understands Ms Donelan is seeking to balance the protection of children with freedom of speech concerns.
As a result, she is scrapping sweeping “legal but harmful” rules which required social media companies to address content that is not illegal but is dangerous – such as that promoting suicide or self-harm.
The rules would have meant social media sites, such as Twitter, Instagram and Facebook, were responsible for dealing with this content for both adults and children.
But, amid criticism that it would have led to a widespread attack on freedom of speech by companies hoping to avoid hefty fines, i understands the new laws will only apply to material targeted at children.
That’s great news. The Free Speech Union has been campaigning against the ‘legal but harmful’ clause in the Bill ever since it was published. (See this piece by me in Conservative Home, for instance.) Of course, the Bill has many other shortcomings, but this change alone will be a huge improvement. Well done to all those FSU members and supporters who took advantage of our campaigning tool to email their MP to ask them to highlight the problems with the Bill, particularly the ‘legal but harmful’ clause. Let’s hope Michelle Donelan goes further and transforms it into a piece of legislation focused on protecting children from online harm, not adults.