MPs must rethink this dire Bill

The government has delayed further debate on the Online Safety Bill until the Autumn. The Bill will result in industrial scale systems to remove content deemed unsafe. The delay is an opportunity for Parliament to re-think the consequences for free speech and privacy. 

The Bill has had remarkably little Parliamentary time, given that it engages our most precious right to free speech. This week it has been in the House of Commons’ Report Stage – the first of just two days allocated. 

It should have been the opportunity for all MPs in the Mother of all Parliaments to consider the Bill and debate its finer points. Instead, it was a vision of a mostly empty chamber, embodying a deprioritisation of democratic debate in the face of the need to find a new Conservative Party leader. 

The government’s aim was to complete not only Report Stage, but also the Third Reading before the Parliamentary recess starts on 21 July. Report Stage is the time for all MPs – not just the Bill Committee – to examine it. 

This timing would have been little enough for a small Bill, but for a gargantuan effort like the Online Safety Bill – one that engages the very cornerstones of our democracy – it fell very short of what was necessary. 

The Bill is misconceived, driven by a political rhetoric about the harms of big tech, and a blindness towards the way in which the measures in the Bill could themselves cause other harms. In imposing

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