The Daily Telegraph

Tweaks to online harms Bill ‘will protect free speech’


PROTECTION­S for freedom of speech are to be introduced to the Online Safety Bill under plans by Liz Truss to “tweak” the proposed legislatio­n.

The new Prime Minister told MPS yesterday that the Bill would continue its progress through Parliament but there would be “some tweaks” to ensure it protected children and free speech.

It is thought likely that ministers may scrap clause 14 in the Bill that aims to regulate legal but harmful content after Tory critics warned it could allow “woke” social media firms to remove offensive or controvers­ial comments that they disagreed with.

The Bill seeks to force the biggest operators, such as Meta, formerly Facebook, and Google, to abide by a duty of care to users, overseen by Ofcom as the new regulator for the sector.

Companies that fail to comply with the laws could be fined up to 10 per cent of their annual global turnover and will also be forced to improve their practices and block non-compliant sites.

The Bill will also require pornograph­y websites to use age verificati­on technology to stop children from accessing the material on their sites, and there will be a duty for the largest social media platforms and search engines to prevent the display of fraudulent advertisin­g.

But some believe the measures will make social media platforms “online policemen” and that attempts to define “legal but harmful” content are “authoritar­ian”.

The Bill in its current form has been criticised by Tory MPS and peers, who fear free speech could be curbed as social media companies may deem content harmful and censor it because of their “woke” prejudices or algorithms.

Ms Truss, responding to Tory former culture secretary Sir Jeremy Wright about concerns over an “almost entirely unregulate­d online space”, said: “I can assure you that we will be proceeding with the Online Safety Bill.

“There are some issues that we need to deal with.

“What I want to make sure is that we protect the under-18s from harm but we also make sure free speech is allowed, so there may be some tweaks required. But certainly he is right that we need to protect people’s safety online.”

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