Online Safety Bill: Sweeping Ministerial Powers

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The Joint Parliamentary Committee scrutinising the government’s Draft Online Safety Bill concluded its evidence sessions on 4 November. The group of MPs and Peers are now writing their report, which will include recommendations for amending the Bill to address the issues identified by those who gave evidence.

One area of particular concern to human rights groups, including ORG, is the powers given in the Bill that would allow the Secretary of State to direct and influence the work of the regulator, and therefore interfere with how the social media companies operate their services.

Amending the Code of Practice

The Bill requires OFCOM to prepare a code of practice for social media companies (clause 29). In preparing the code, the regulator must consult with (among others) the regulated companies, child protection groups, victims of online abuse, and experts in technology, public health and human rights.

However, the Bill gives the Secretary of State a veto on the code of practice. Clause 33 allows the Minister to

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