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Internet safety reforms need ‘some tweaks’ to protect free speech, says Truss

Internet safety reforms need ‘some tweaks’ to protect free speech, says Truss

Proposals for new internet safety laws face “some tweaks” to ensure they protect children and free speech, according to Liz Truss.

The Prime Minister said the Online Safety Bill will continue its progress through Parliament.

But Ms Truss confirmed changes are expected to the legislation, which has reached report stage in the Commons where MPs can consider further amendments.

The Bill seeks to force the biggest operators, such as Meta, formerly Facebook, and Google, to abide by a duty of care to users, overseen by Ofcom as the new regulator for the sector.

Companies that fail to comply with the laws could be fined up to 10% of their annual global turnover and will also be forced to improve their practices and block non-compliant sites.

The Bill will also require pornography websites to use age verification technology to stop children from accessing the material on their sites, and there will be a duty for the largest social media platforms and search engines to prevent fraudulent advertising.

Critics of the Bill believe the measures risk making social media platforms “online policemen” and that attempts to define “legal but harmful” content are “authoritarian”.

Ms Truss, responding to Tory former culture secretary Sir Jeremy Wright about concerns over an “almost entirely unregulated online space”, said: “I can assure you that we will be proceeding with the Online Safety Bill.

“There are some issues that we need to deal with. What I want to make sure is that we protect the under-18s from harm but we also make sure free speech is allowed, so there may be some tweaks required.

“But certainly he is right that we need to protect people’s safety online.”

Downing Street declined to say what “tweaks” were required to the Bill.

The Prime Minister’s official spokesman said: “It will be for the Culture Secretary to set out the details of that, you will appreciate they were appointed yesterday.

“But I think she (Ms Truss) was clear on what she wanted to achieve with that deal, both protecting those under 18 and ensuring that free speech was protected.”

NSPCC chief executive Sir Peter Wanless said: “The Prime Minister is right to commit to delivering an Online Safety Bill that protects children from harm and, four years in the making, is needed more than ever.

“With every passing month we are likely to see an average of 3,500 sexual abuse crimes take place against children online.

“It’s therefore crucial the legislation becomes law without delay and we stand ready to work with the Government to ensure the Bill systemically protects children while also ensuring the fundamental rights of all internet users are guaranteed.”

Content provided by Radio NewsHub. Originally published on 2022-09-07 15:07:00.

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