I have been shocked and saddened by what I have seen online over the last few days since the 2020 Euros Final. Abuse online of any kind is always unacceptable, and a lot more needs to be done to tackle it. What should have been a celebratory period has instead highlighted the worst of our society. Unfortunately, this is not a new issue, and racist abuse has been allowed to spread unchecked on social media for far too long.
Despite our calls for action the current Government continues to not act on this issue. I have been supporting The Labour Party in calling for online harms legislation for many years. There is precedent for this kind of action, with our allies in Australia, France etc passing strong legislation on tackling this very issue. We need to catch up and take real steps forward towards creating a less toxic online environment.
As well as being too late to act, the Online Safety Bill the Government is proposing is not fit for purpose. It is far too weak to be effective and leaves the social media giants mostly unaccountable. The Online Safety Bill draft gives social media platforms a free hand. It only asks them to publish their terms and conditions against harmful abuse. Private platforms still mark their homework; they could publish terms that do absolutely nothing against social media abuse and still comply with the Bill.
Specifically, regarding your point on verifying your identity, the Bill also does nothing to tackle anonymous abuse. It imposes no liability against senior managers of social media companies. It comes with no action on updating communications offences to our modern, online world. Perpetrators of horrific racist abuse can keep hiding behind anonymous accounts and exploiting legal loopholes. The government’s proposals will facilitate them, rather than clamping down on this practice.
We deserve a lot better than this, and I will continue to work with my colleagues to campaign for real measures that will make a tangible difference. I’ll be working with colleagues from across the House of Commons to amend the Bill to reflect these concerns and toughen up this legislation because this issue can’t wait, and we need to see action now. I will work to make sure we see real change on this matter.