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Further amendments to the Online Safety Bill not ruled out: Parliament battling over the scope and detail of the Online Safety Bill

It has been reported that forty-eight Conservative MP’s (including former Conservative Party leader, Sir Ian Duncan Smith, and former Home Secretary, Priti Patel) are supporting back-bench proposals for further amendments to the Online Safety Bill, the draft legislation for regulating online content.

Currently the Online Safety Bill provides that companies that breach its provisions could be fined 10% of global turnover. However, the draft legislation only provides criminal sanctions for managers of technology companies where they fail to give certain information required by Ofcom (the media regulator set to be given wide-ranging investigatory and enforcement powers to regulate online content once the legislation is enacted). However, the latest amendments in a proposal led by Conservative backbenchers, Miriam Cates and Sir Bill Cash, seek to establish criminal liability, punishable by up to two years imprisonment, where senior managers at technology companies (excluding operators of search engines) breach their obligations to protect children from harmful content.

On 13 January 2023, the BBC reported that Culture Secretary, Michelle Donelan, said she will take a "sensible approach" when considering MPs' proposals and that she is “not ruling out” changes to the Online Safety Bill. It was also reported by the Financial Times on 12 January 2023 that the spokesperson for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak declined to give a commitment on whether his government would accept or reject the amendments proposed. Rather, they said: “Our aim is to hold to account social media platforms for harmful content, but also ensuring the UK remains a great place to invest or grow a tech business […] We will consider all the amendments to the Online Safety Bill and set out an approach when they have been put forward.”

What can we expect next?

The Online Safety Bill is scheduled to return to the House of Commons on Tuesday 17 January 2023 and further amendments now seems increasingly likely before the Online Safety Bill passes to the House of Lords for Consideration. However, if the Online Safety Bill hasn’t received Royal Assent by April 2023, according to Parliamentary rules the legislation will be dropped entirely, and the process would need to start again in a new Parliament.

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Reported in:

Labour vows to hand ‘weak’ Rishi Sunak first defeat over Online Safety Bill | The Independent

Online Safety Bill changes 'not ruled out' - culture secretary - BBC News

https://www.ft.com/content/8d774627-59f2-47b7-8658-fb10e942f810

We have previously written about The return of the Online Safety Bill  and held a session on 'Online harms and media regulation’ as part of our Media, Sport and Entertainment Summit held virtually in September and October 2022 and accessible on demand by following the link.

Speakers: Duncan Calow, DLA Piper | David Cook, DLA Piper | Anika Kruse, DLA Piper | Darach Connolly, DLA Piper | and a key note contribution by Lord Tim Clement-Jones CBE, Member of the Joint Select Committee on the Draft Online Safety Bill (2021-22)

This session and each other session in the programme, which covered the full spectrum of the MSE industries and provided insights on current issues and opportunities, is now available to watch on demand.

"Our aim is to hold to account social media platforms for harmful content, but also ensuring the UK remains a great place to invest or grow a tech business […] We will consider all the amendments to the Online Safety Bill and set out an approach when they have been put forward." Says Rishi Sunak

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online safety, social media, social media networks, digital, publishing, media, digital media, uk
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