Community Crime Government Upper Bann Westminster

Positive Meeting on Online Harms Bill – Lockhart

DUP MP Carla Lockhart has for some time been championing the need to make the Internet a safer place.  The MP has been trolled for many years particularly on her appearance and is a strong advocate of ensuring that any legislation brought forward by the Government to improve safety on the Internet needs to address robustly anonymity and deal with “legal but harmful” content.  Progress has been made with the Online Safety Bill nearing its final draft.  It is muted that it will be presented to Parliament before or immediately after Easter. 

The Upper Bann MP has been using her position at Westminster to press for more robust measures and recently met with Department for Culture, Sports and Media, Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Chris Philips MP who is leading on this issue.  During the meeting they also discussed specific problems related to Northern Ireland given the continuing abuse of innocent victims of terrorism in a deliberate attempt to silence their voices.

Speaking after the meeting Carla Lockhart MP said, “this was a very positive discussion, and I am confident that the message has resonated with Government on the anonymity issue.  It is clear from the draft bill that there will be a big focus on verification and the ability for people to chose whether they wish to interact with a non-verified account or not.  I have no doubt this would help cleanse the Internet of some of the vile activity we see on a daily basis.  It would appear that this measure will be further strengthened in the final draft.

I pressed the issue of legal but harmful content and the fact there needed to be clearer guidance/benchmarking for platforms to adhere too.  It is not acceptable that young people can access sites that promote self-harm or other forms of harmful material.  Also, the threshold for sites when self-regulating harmful content needs bolstered. I have experienced many  incidents personally, as did my former party leader Arlene Foster, and the most recent attack on my colleague Diane Dodds. I made it clear the need to have more stringent rules surrounding making the platforms act on reporting of harmful content.  It is well known that in Diane’s case it took three days for the content to be removed and that was only after a significant media storm. 

The final discussion point was around the many bot factories that exist and particularly those aimed at attacking and silencing innocent victims of terrorism in Northern Ireland.  Chris gave an undertaking to ensure that the legislation around telecommunications and hate speech is as robust in Northern Ireland as in the rest of the UK.

I look forward to this Bill being presented to the House and for scrutiny.  My aim is to ensure that it is not toothless and that it equips the police/OFCOM and other authorities with the legal framework to take action when required.”


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