Labour has called on the government to prioritise the Online Harms Bill which was first promised more than a year ago. Since then, high profile examples have shown why the lack of regulation is letting down users. These include Twitter’s sluggish reaction to antisemitic tweets from Grime artist Wiley, allowing the spread of dangerous anti-vaxx and other conspiracies, and the failure to address racist abuse targeting MPs including Diane Abbott.
Ian Russell, who campaigns to make the internet safer after his daughter Molly ended her life aged 14 after viewing graphic self-harm images on Instagram, is backing Labour’s calls as well as a new consultation launched by the party on online harms.
Mr Russell says the party’s consultation “has the scope and ambition to inform our understanding of our new digital world and guide our future decision making about how to make it a better place”.
After Molly’s death the Russell family found graphic self-harm content and suicide-encouraging memes on her social media.
Mr Russell, who has established the Molly Rose Foundation in her memory, said: “Today’s current big tech platforms were born at about the same time as my youngest daughter, Molly. The powerful tech corporations live on, sadly Molly ended her own life in 2017 and I am convinced what she found online helped kill her.
“Labour’s consultation will help the UK become a world leader for the effective regulation required to make the internet a safer place. Only when we have identified, understood and tamed online harms will modern connected technology fully flourish and bring us all the widespread benefits it promises.”
Labour is working with Jamie Susskind, author of Future Politics: Living Together in a World Transformed by Tech, on the wide-ranging consultation that will look at online harms addressing children’s safety, hate speech and disinformation. It will also look at how the tech sector can help economic growth, data protection and user rights, and how the digital divide shuts people out from opportunity
Jo Stevens MP, Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary, said:
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Labour believes that technology has already changed lives for the better, but it also provides a space where disinformation, hate speech and other online harms have been allowed to flourish.
This is something that should worry all of us. The corrosive effect of this harm does not stop when we put down our phones, it has a significant impact on our everyday lives.
There are also growing signs that too much power is being concentrated in the hands of unaccountable tech companies whose decisions increasingly affect our rights, freedoms, and the political system itself.
We can and must demand more from the tech we use and build a digital future that is safer, fairer and more inclusive. We are asking people to take part in our consultation and help us make that happen.