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Chair comments on Online Harms legislation

15 December 2020

DCMS Committee Chair Julian Knight has issued this comment in response to the Government’s planned Online Harms legislation.

Chair of the DCMS Committee Julian Knight MP said:

“Today marks a major step forward in laws that will see powerful tech companies held to account. Credit is due to the work of the DCMS Committee in the last parliament for its extensive investigation into disinformation and fake news that led the charge for online regulation.

“The Government listened to the case for tech companies to be given clear legal liabilities to act against harmful or illegal content, covered by a compulsory code of ethics and policed by an independent regulator. The Secretary of State has acted on our calls to give Parliament a role in determining the scope of the Bill and to include harmful misinformation too.

“A duty of care with the threat of substantial fines levied on companies that breach it is to be welcomed. However, we’ve long argued that even hefty fines can be small change to tech giants and it’s concerning that the prospect of criminal liability would be held as a last resort.

“We warn against too narrow a definition of online harms that is unable to respond to new dangers, and question how such harms will be proactively monitored.”

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