Catherine McKinnell MP has called on the Government to strengthen their Online Safety Bill to stop the normalisation of online hate.
An Urgent Question was called by the Labour Party in Parliament, following the disgusting online abuse directed at England players following the Euro 2020 final on Sunday.
During the debate, Catherine stated: “We live in an era where abuse online is becoming normalised. The disgusting comments directed at our footballers on social media has in many cases been illegal, and the perpetrators must be brought to justice.
“But in other cases, while being technically legal, the abuse has still been extremely harmful and disturbing.”
Catherine said that “warm words and veiled threats are clearly not enough” and called on the Government to “commit today to ensuring that legal but harmful content will be adequately addressed in the Online Safety Bill” and “improving the Bill to ensure social media companies’ terms and conditions meet a minimum standard, and to ensuring that those standards are enforced to ensure that harmful content is swiftly removed from their platforms”.
Following her question, Catherine commented:
“I was disgusted to witness the racist abuse and hate directed at players following Sunday’s game. Where possible, swift action must be taken against anyone responsible and accounts must be taken down and users blocked by social media companies.
“But time and time again too many people are getting away with legal yet horrendous abuse online, for example by using emojis, that simply would not be tolerated offline.
“The Government must strengthen the Online Safety Bill to prevent legal but harmful materials being shared and hosted on their platforms.”
Concerns about legal but harmful online materials have been raised by organisations such as the Antisemitism Policy Trust: https://antisemitism.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/Online-harms-publisher-liability-August-2020.pdf
Catherine has long called for stronger action to address online hate and for stronger action to address online hate and abuse.
The Petitions Committee, which Catherine Chairs, is currently undertaking an inquiry into online abuse and she has raised online hate as Co-Chair of the All-Party Group Against Antisemitism.
Previous interventions include speaking in Parliament in November 2020 and meeting with the FA to discuss online hate in April 2021.