Catherine McKinnell MP has called for a strong Online Harms Bill to hold social media companies to account for tackling online hate and extremism on their platforms.
In its long-awaited Online Harms Bill, the Government intends to establish a new ‘duty of care’ toward web users, overseen by an independent regulator and backed up by ‘Codes of Practice’.
Ministers have rightly pledged to put a Code of Practice on Terrorism and a Code of Practice on Child Exploitation and Sexual Abuse into law.
Highlighting the ready availability of racist hate material on some platforms, Catherine today called for the introduction of an additional ‘Code of Practice on Hate Crime’:
“When the Government finally brings its Online Harms Bill forward, it must have teeth.”
“The Government has rightly proposed two statutory codes – on Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse, and on Terrorism. But will the Minister now commit to bring forward another Code of Practice, on Hate Crime and wider harms?”
“The danger is that without such a Code, any duty of care to users will be limited to what is contained in the site’s Terms and Conditions. And despite assurances from the Secretary of State, Terms and Conditions are insufficient – as the Government acknowledges, they are can be patchy or poorly applied.”
“There is much more in the Bill that will need serious consideration. But, as a minimum, I would like to see a Code of Practice for Hate Crime brought forward and given the same status that the Child Sexual Exploitation and Abuse and Terrorism codes have.”
Catherine chairs Parliament’s Petitions Committee, which is currently holding an inquiry into online abuse. The inquiry will look at the experiences of people who have faced online abuse, focusing on potential solutions for its reduction and prevention, legally, socially, and technologically. The Committee is currently calling for evidence and welcomes contributions from campaigners, legal professionals, social media companies and members of the public.
She also co-chairs the All-Party Parliamentary Group Against Antisemitism, which has raised concerns about antisemitism on social media. The Antisemitism Policy Trust, which provides secretariat services to the group, has produced a briefing outlining how hateful online materials can lead to violent hate crime offline.