Stephen probes Culture Secretary on legislation to tackle ‘Online Harms’

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On Monday, Stephen spoke in the House of Commons at the launch of the Government’s ‘Online Harms’ White Paper. Introduced to the Chamber by Jeremy Wright, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, the proposals aim to establish a new statutory duty of care to make companies operating online take more responsibility for the safety of their users.

Stephen – who last year sat on the Offensive Weapons Bill Committee – has taken a particular interest in the new measures, and their potential role in regulating the sale of illegal weapons online. In the exchange on Monday he pointed out that weapons which cannot lawfully be sold in the UK are freely available online, on platforms like Ebay and Amazon.  He asked the Secretary of State how the proposals would tackle this particular online harm, and was told: ‘It is important that we place the obligation on those who operate online platforms to take their responsibilities seriously’.

Speaking aferwards, Stephen said: “I welcome the aims of this White Paper, but we need to see much more detail on how it will be turned into concrete action. Last year I sought to make it illegal for companies to advertise illegal weapons online in the UK. When I raised the matter in Bill Committee the Minister responded that the problem would be tackled in this White Paper on Online Harms. We need action to shut down this trade in illegal weapons, which is fuelling violent crime on our streets.”

The Government is now holding an open consultation on the proposals outlined by the White Paper, which is set to close on 1 July 2019.