Clause 14 - User empowerment duties

Online Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee am 2:15 pm ar 13 Rhagfyr 2022.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 2:15, 13 Rhagfyr 2022

I beg to move amendment 8, in clause 14, page 14, line 3, leave out “harmful content” and insert—

“content to which this subsection applies”.

This amendment, and Amendments 9 to 17, amend clause 14 (user empowerment) as the adult safety duties are removed (see Amendments 6, 7 and 41). New subsections (8B) to (8D) describe the kinds of content which are now relevant to the duty in clause 14(2) - see Amendment 15.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Llafur, Wallasey

With this it will be convenient to discuss the following:

Government amendments 9 to 14.

Government amendment 15, in clause 14, page 14, line 29, at end insert—

“(8A) Subsection (2) applies to content that—

(a) is regulated user-generated content in relation to the service in question, and

(b) is within subsection (8B), (8C) or (8D).

(8B) Content is within this subsection if it encourages, promotes or provides instructions for—

(a) suicide or an act of deliberate self-injury, or

(b) an eating disorder or behaviours associated with an eating disorder.

(8C) Content is within this subsection if it is abusive and the abuse targets any of the following characteristics—

(a) race,

(b) religion,

(c) sex,

(d) sexual orientation,

(e) disability, or

(f) gender reassignment.

(8D) Content is within this subsection if it incites hatred against people—

(a) of a particular race, religion, sex or sexual orientation,

(b) who have a disability, or

(c) who have the characteristic of gender reassignment.”

This amendment describes the content relevant to the duty in subsection (2) of clause 14. The effect is (broadly) that providers must offer users tools to reduce their exposure to these kinds of content.

Amendment (a), to Government amendment 15, at end insert—

“(8E) Content is within this subsection if it—

(a) incites hateful extremism,

(b) provides false information about climate change, or

(c) is harmful to health.”

Government amendment 16, in clause 14, page 14, line 30, leave out subsection (9) and insert—

“(9) In this section—

‘disability’ means any physical or mental impairment;

‘injury’ includes poisoning;

‘non-verified user’ means a user who has not verified their identity to the provider of a service (see section 58(1));

‘race’ includes colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origins.”

This amendment inserts definitions of terms now used in clause 14.

Amendment (a), to Government amendment 16, after “mental impairment;” insert—

“‘hateful extremism’ means activity or materials directed at an out-group who are perceived as a threat to an in-group motivated by or intended to advance a political, religious or racial supremacist ideology—

(a) to create a climate conducive to hate crime, terrorism or other violence, or

(b) to attempt to erode or destroy the rights and freedoms protected by article 17 (Prohibition of abuse of rights) of Schedule 1 of the Human Rights Act 1998.”

Government amendment 17.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 2:30, 13 Rhagfyr 2022

The Government recognise the importance of giving adult users greater choice about what they see online and who they interact with, while upholding users’ rights to free expression online. That is why we have removed the “legal but harmful” provisions from the Bill in relation to adults and replaced it with a fairer, simpler approach: the triple shield.

As I said earlier, the first shield will require all companies in scope to take preventive measures to tackle illegal content or activity. The second shield will place new duties on category 1 services to improve transparency and accountability, and protect free speech, by requiring them to adhere to their terms of service when restricting access to content or suspending or banning users. As I said earlier, user empowerment is the key third shield, empowering adults with a greater control over their exposure to legal forms of abuse or hatred, or content that encourages, promotes or provides instructions for suicide, self-harm or eating disorders. That has been done while upholding and protecting freedom of expression.

Amendments 9 and 12 will strengthen the user empowerment duty, so that the largest companies are required to ensure that those tools are effective in reducing the likelihood of encountering the listed content or alerting users to it, and are easy for users to access. That will provide adult users with greater control over their online experience.

We are also setting out the categories of content that those user empowerment tools apply to in the Bill, through amendment 15. Adult users will be given the choice of whether they want to take advantage of those tools to have greater control over content that encourages, promotes or provides instructions for suicide, self-harm and eating disorders, and content that targets abuse or incites hate against people on the basis of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or gender reassignment. This is a targeted approach, focused on areas where we know that adult users—particularly those who are vulnerable or disproportionately targeted by online hate and abuse—would benefit from having greater choice.

As I said, the Government remain committed to free speech, which is why we have made changes to the adult safety duties. By establishing high thresholds for inclusion in those content categories, we have ensured that legitimate debate online will not be affected by the user empowerment duties.

I want to emphasise that the user empowerment duties do not require companies to remove legal content from their services; they are about giving individual adult users the option to increase their control over those kinds of content. Platforms will still be required to provide users with the ability to filter out unverified users, if they so wish. That duty remains unchanged. For the reasons that I have set out, I hope that Members can support Government amendments 8 to 17.

I turn to the amendments in the name of the hon. Member for Pontypridd to Government amendments 15 and 16. As I have set out in relation to Government amendments 8 to 17, the Government recognise the intent behind the amendments—to apply the user empowerment tools in clause 14(2) to a greater range of content categories. As I have already set out, it is crucial that a tailored approach is taken, so that the user empowerment tools stay in balance with users’ rights to free expression online. I am sympathetic to the amendments, but they propose categories of content that risk being either unworkable for companies or duplicative to the approach already set out in amendment 15.

The category of

“content that is harmful to health” sets an extremely broad scope. That risks requiring companies to apply the tools in clause 14(2) to an unfeasibly large volume of content. It is not a proportionate approach and would place an unreasonable burden on companies. It might also have concerning implications for freedom of expression, as it may capture important health advice. That risks, ultimately, undermining the intention behind the user empowerment tools in clause 14(2) by preventing users from accessing helpful content, and disincentivising users from using the features.

In addition, the category

“provides false information about climate change” places a requirement on private companies to be the arbiters of truth on subjective and evolving issues. Those companies would be responsible for determining what types of legal content were considered false information, which poses a risk to freedom of expression and risks silencing genuine debate.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Did the Minister just say that climate change is subjective?

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

No, not about whether climate change is happening, but we are talking about a wide range. “Provides false information”—how do the companies determine what is false? I am not talking about the binary question of whether climate change is happening, but climate change is a wide-ranging debate. “Provides false information” means that someone has to determine what is false and what is not. Basically, the amendment outsources that to the social media platforms. That is not appropriate.

Photo of Sarah Owen Sarah Owen Opposition Whip (Commons), Shadow Minister (Levelling Up, Housing, Communities and Local Government)

Would that not also apply to vaccine efficacy? If we are talking about everything being up for debate and nothing being a hard fact, we are entering slightly strange worlds where we undo a huge amount of progress, in particular on health.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The amendment does not talk about vaccine efficacy; it talks about content that is harmful to health. That is a wide-ranging thing.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Llafur, Wallasey

Order. I am getting increasingly confused. The Minister appears to be answering a debate on an amendment that has not yet been moved. It might be helpful to the Committee, for good debate, if the Minister were to come back with his arguments against the amendment not yet moved by the Opposition spokesperson, the hon. Member for Pontypridd, once she has actually moved it. We can then hear her reasons for it and he can reply.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister (Tech, Gambling and the Digital Economy)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Dame Angela. With your permission, I will take this opportunity to make some broad reflections on the Government’s approach to the new so-called triple-shield protection that we have heard so much about, before coming on to the amendment tabled in my name in the group.

Broadly, Labour is disappointed that the system-level approach to content that is harmful to adults is being stripped from the Bill and replaced with a duty that puts the onus on the user to keep themselves safe. As the Antisemitism Policy Trust among others has argued, the two should be able to work in tandem. The clause allows a user to manage what harmful material they see by requiring the largest or most risky service providers to provide tools to allow a person in effect to reduce their likelihood of encountering, or to alert them to, certain types of material. We have concerns about the overall approach of the Government, but Labour believes that important additions can be made to the list of content where user-empowerment tools must be in place, hence our amendment (a) to Government amendment 15.

In July, in a little-noticed written ministerial statement, the Government produced a prototype list of content that would be harmful to adults. The list included priority content that category 1 services need to address in their terms and conditions; online abuse and harassment—mere disagreement with another’s point of view would not reach the threshold for harmful content, and so would not be covered; circulation of real or manufactured intimate images without the subject’s consent; content promoting self-harm; content promoting eating disorders; legal suicide content; and harmful health content that is demonstrably false, such as urging people to drink bleach to cure cancer.

We have concerns about whether listing those harms in the Bill is the most effective mechanism, mostly because we feel that the list should be more flexible and able to change according to the issues of the day, but it is clear that the Government will continue to pursue this avenue despite some very worrying gaps. With that in mind, will the Minister clarify what exactly underpins that list if there have been no risk assessments? What was the basis for drawing up that specific list? Surely the Government should be implored to publish the research that determined the list, at the very least.

I recognise that the false communications offence has remained in the Bill, but the list in Government amendment 15 is not exhaustive. Without the additions outlined in our amendment (a) to amendment 15, the list will do little to tackle some of the most pressing harm of our time, some of which we have already heard about today.

I am pleased that the list from the written ministerial statement has more or less been reproduced in amendment 15, under subsection (2), but there is a key and unexplained omission that our amendment (a) to it seeks to correct: the absence of the last point, on harmful health content. Amendment (a) seeks to reinsert such important content into the Bill directly. It seems implausible that the Government failed to consider the dangerous harm that health misinformation can have online, especially given that back in July they seemed to have a grasp of its importance by including it in the original list.

We all know that health-related misinformation and disinformation can significantly undermine public health, as we have heard. We only have to cast our minds back to the height of the coronavirus pandemic to remind ourselves of how dangerous the online space was, with anti-vax scepticism being rife. Many groups were impacted, including pregnant women, who received mixed messages about the safety of covid vaccination, causing widespread confusion, fear and inaction. By tabling amendment (a) to amendment 15, we wanted to understand why the Government have dropped that from the list and on what exact grounds.

In addition to harmful health content, our amendment (a) to amendment 15 would also add to the list content that incites hateful extremism and provides false information about climate change, as we have heard. In early written evidence from Carnegie, it outlined how serious the threat of climate change disinformation is to the UK. Malicious actors spreading false information on social media could undermine collective action to combat the threats. At present, the Online Safety Bill is not designed to tackle those threats head on.

We all recognise that social media is an important source of news and information for many people, and evidence is emerging of its role in climate change disinformation. The Centre for Countering Digital Hate published a report in 2021 called “The Toxic Ten: How ten fringe publishers fuel 69% of digital climate change denial”, which explores the issue further. Further analysis of activity on Facebook around COP26 undertaken by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue demonstrates the scale of the challenge in dealing with climate change misinformation and disinformation. The research compared the levels of engagement generated by reliable, scientific organisations and climate-sceptic actors, and found that posts from the latter frequently received more traction and reach than the former, which is shocking. For example, in the fortnight in which COP26 took place, sceptic content garnered 12 times the level of engagement that authoritative sources did on the platform, and 60% of the sceptic posts analysed could be classified as actively and explicitly attacking efforts to curb climate change, which just goes to show the importance of ensuring that climate change disinformation is also included in the list in Government amendment 15.

Our two amendments—amendment (a) to amendment 15, and amendment (a) to amendment 16 —seek to ensure that the long-standing omission from the Bill of hateful extremism is put right here as a priority. There is increasing concern about extremism leading to violence and death that does not meet the definition for terrorism. The internet and user-to-user services play a central role in the radicalisation process, yet the Online Safety Bill does not cover extremism.

Colleagues may be aware that Sara Khan, the former lead commissioner for countering extremism, provided a definition of extremism for the Government in February 2021, but there has been no response. The issue has been raised repeatedly by Members across the House, including by my hon. Friend Luke Pollard, following the tragic murders carried out by a radicalised incel in his constituency.

Amendment (a) to amendment 16 seeks to bring a formal definition of hateful extremism into the Bill and supports amendment (a) to amendment 15. The definition, as proposed by Sara Khan, who was appointed as Britain’s first countering extremism commissioner in 2018, is an important first step in addressing the gaps that social media platforms and providers have left open for harm and radicalisation.

Social media platforms have often been ineffective in removing other hateful extremist content. In November 2020, The Guardian reported that research from the Centre for Countering Digital Hate had uncovered how extremist merchandise had been sold on Facebook and Instagram to help fund neo-Nazi groups. That is just one of a huge number of instances, and it goes some way to suggest that a repeatedly inconsistent and ineffective approach to regulating extremist content is the one favoured by some social media platforms.

I hope that the Minister will seriously consider the amendments and will see the merits in expanding the list in Government amendment 15 to include these additional important harms.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Thank you for chairing the meeting this afternoon, Dame Angela. I agree wholeheartedly with the amendments tabled by the Labour Front-Bench team. It is important that we talk about climate change denial and what we can do to ensure people are not exposed to that harmful conspiracy theory through content. It is also important that we do what we can to ensure that pregnant women, for example, are not told not to take the covid vaccine or that parents are not told not to vaccinate their children against measles, mumps and rubella. We need to do what we can to ensure measures are in place.

I appreciate the list in Government amendment 15, but I have real issues with this idea of a toggle system—of being able to switch off this stuff. Why do the Government think people should have to switch off the promotion of suicide content or content that promotes eating disorders? Why is it acceptable that people should have to make an active choice to switch that content off in order to not see it? People have to make an active choice to tick a box that says, “No, I don’t want to see content that is abusing me because of my religion,” or “No, I don’t want to see content that is abusing me because of my membership of the LGBT community.” We do not want people to have to look through the abuse they are receiving in order to press the right buttons to switch it off. As the hon. Member for Don Valley said, people should be allowed to say what they want online, but the reality is that the extremist content that we have seen published online is radicalising people and bringing them to the point that they are taking physical action against people in the real, offline world as well as taking action online.

There were many issues with the Bill before, but it was significantly better than it will be at the end of this Committee. I wholeheartedly support the Opposition amendments. They are particularly clever, in that they bring in that additional content and include that definition of extremism, and they would make a significant and positive difference to the Bill.

On clause 14 more generally, the user empowerment tools are important. It is important that we have user empowerment and that that is mandated. I agree that people should be able to fix their online lives in order to stay away from some of the stuff that they may not want to see. I am disappointed that gambling is not included in the list. It could have been included so that people have the opportunity to avoid it. In real life, if someone has an issue with gambling, they can go to their local betting shop and say, “I have a problem with gambling. Do not allow me to bet anymore.” The betting shop has to say, “Okay, we will not allow you to bet anymore.” That is how it works in real life, and not having that in the Bill, as I said at the previous Committee stage, is a concern, because we do not have parity between the online and offline worlds.

As a result of the Bill, people will be able to stop seeing content on YouTube, for example, promoting eating disorders, but they might not be able to stop seeing content promoting online poker sites, when that might be causing a significant issue for their health, so not including that is bit of an oversight. As I say, user empowerment is important, but the Government have not implemented it in nearly as good a way as they should have done, and the Opposition amendments would make the Government amendments better.

Photo of Damian Collins Damian Collins Chair, Draft Online Safety Bill (Joint Committee), Chair, Draft Online Safety Bill (Joint Committee) 2:45, 13 Rhagfyr 2022

I rise briefly to say that the introduction of the shields is a significant additional safety measure in the Bill and shows that the Government have thought about how to improve certain safety features as the Bill has progressed.

In the previous version of the Bill, as we have discussed at length, there were the priority legal offences that companies had to proactively identify and mitigate, and there were the measures on transparency and accountability on the terms of service. However, if pieces of content fell below the threshold for the priority legal offences or were not covered, or if they were not addressed in the terms of service, the previous version of the Bill never required the companies to act in any particular way. Reports might be done by Ofcom raising concerns, but there was no requirement for further action to be taken if the content was not a breach of platform policies or the priority safety duties.

The additional measure before us says that there may be content where there is no legal basis for removal, but users nevertheless have the right to have that content blocked. Many platforms offer ad tools already—they are not perfect, but people can opt in to say that they do not want to see ads for particular types of content—but there was nothing for the types of content covered by the Online Safety Bill, where someone could say, “I want to make sure I protect myself from seeing this at all,” and then, for the more serious content, “I expect the platforms to take action to mitigate it.” So this measure is an important additional level of protection for adult users, which allows them to give themselves the certainty that they will not see certain types of content and puts an important, additional duty on the companies themselves.

Briefly, on the point about gambling, the hon. Member for Aberdeen North is quite right to say that someone can self-exclude from gambling at the betting shop, but the advertising code already requires that companies do not target people who have self-excluded with advertising messages. As the Government complete their online advertising review, which is a separate piece of work, it is important that that is effectively enforced on big platforms, such as Facebook and Google, to ensure that they do not allow companies to advertise to vulnerable users in breach of the code. However, that can be done outside the Bill.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

My concern is not just about advertising content or stuff that is specifically considered as an advert. If someone put up a TikTok video about how to cheat an online poker system, that would not be classed as an advert and therefore would not be caught. People would still be able to see it, and could not opt out.

Photo of Damian Collins Damian Collins Chair, Draft Online Safety Bill (Joint Committee), Chair, Draft Online Safety Bill (Joint Committee)

I totally appreciate the point that the hon. Lady makes, which is a different one. For gambling, the inducement to act straightaway often comes in the form of advertising. It usually comes in the form of free bets and immediate inducements to act. People who have self-excluded should not be targeted in that way. We need to ensure that that is rigorously enforced on online platforms too.

Photo of Kim Leadbeater Kim Leadbeater Llafur, Batley and Spen

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairship, Dame Angela. It is lovely to be back in a Public Bill Committee with many familiar faces—and a few new ones, including the Minister. However, after devoting many weeks earlier this year to the previous Committee, I must admit that it is with some frustration that we are back here with the Government intent on further weakening their Bill.

Throughout the passage of the Bill, I have raised a number of specific concerns, from democratic and journalistic exemptions, to age verification, recognised news publishers, advocacy bodies and media literacy. On clause 14, while I support the principles of Government amendments 15 and 16, I draw the Minister’s attention to the importance of amendment (a) to amendment 15 and amendment (a) to amendment 16. He has already said that he is sympathetic to those amendments. Let me try to convince him to turn that sympathy into action.

I will focus primarily on an issue that is extremely important to me and to many others: extremism and radicalisation. However, while I will focus on the dangers of extremism and radicalisation, be it right-wing, Islamist, incel or other, the dangers that I am about to set out—the chain of events that leads to considerable harm online—are the same for self-harm content, eating disorder content, health disinformation, climate change disinformation or any dangerous, hateful material directed at people based on their sex, sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion or other characteristics.

Such content is not just deeply offensive and often wholly inaccurate; it is dangerous and vile and serves only to spread harm, misinformation and conspiracy. To be clear, such content is not about a social media user stating how upset and angry they are about the football result, or somebody disagreeing legitimately and passionately about a political issue. It is not the normal, everyday social media content that most people see on their feeds.

This is content that is specifically, carefully and callously designed to sit just below the criminal threshold, yet that can still encourage violence, self-harm or worse. It is content used by extremists of all types that lures vulnerable people in, uses social media likes and comments to create the illusion of legitimacy and popularity, and then directly targets those most likely to be susceptible, encouraging them either to commit harm or to move on to smaller but high-harm platforms that may fall out of the scope of the Bill. This is not free speech; it is content that can act as a dangerous gateway to radicalisation and extremism. The Government know how dangerous it is because their own report from His Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service last year found:

The Internet appears to be playing an increasingly prominent role in radicalisation processes of those convicted of extremist offences in England and Wales.”

Hon. Members will understand my deep and personal interest in this matter. Since the murder of my sister, a Member of this House, six and a half years ago by a far-right extremist, I have worked hard to bring communities and people together in the face of hatred. Some of that work has included meeting former extremists and discussing how they were radicalised. Those conversations were never easy, but what became very clear to me was that such people are not born extremists. Their radicalisation starts somewhere, and it is often somewhere that appears to be completely innocent, such as a Facebook group about issues or problems in their community, a Twitter discussion about current affairs or the state of the country, or even a page for supporters of their football team.

One day, a comment is posted that is not illegal and is not hate speech, but that references a conspiracy or a common trope. It is an ideological remark placed there to test the water. The conversation moves on and escalates. More disturbing or even violent comments start to be made. They might be accompanied by images or videos, leading those involved down a more sinister path. Nothing yet is illegal, but clearly—I hope we would all agree—it is unacceptable.

The number of contributors reduces, but a few remain. No warnings are presented, no flags are raised and it appears like normal social media content. However, the person reading it might be lonely or vulnerable, and now feels that they have found people to listen to them. They might be depressed or unhappy and looking to blame their situation on something or someone. They might feel that nobody understands them, but these people seem to.

The discussion is then taken to a more private place, to the smaller but more harmful platforms that may fall outside the scope of the Bill, but that will now become the go-to place for spreading extremism, misinformation and other harmful content. The radicalisation continues there—harder to track, harder to monitor and harder to stop. Let us remember, however, that all of that started with those legal but harmful comments being witnessed. They were clearly unacceptable, but mainstream social media give them legitimacy. The Online Safety Bill will do nothing to stop that.

Unfortunately, that chain of events occurs far too often. It is a story told many times, about how somebody vulnerable is lured in by those wishing to spread their hatred. It is hosted by major social media platforms. Hon. Members may remember the case of John, a teenager radicalised online and subsequently sentenced. His story was covered by The Guardian last year. John was feeling a sense of hopelessness, which left him susceptible to the messaging of the far right. Aged 15, he felt “written off”: he was in the bottom set at school, with zero exam expectations, and feeling that his life opportunities would be dismal. The far right, however, promised him a future. John became increasingly radicalised by an online barrage of far-right disinformation. He said:

“I was relying on the far right for a job. They were saying that when they got power they would be giving jobs to people like me”.

John now says:

“Now I know the posts were all fake, but the 15-year-old me didn’t bother to fact-check.”

For some people in the room, that might seem like a totally different world. Thankfully, for most of us, it is. However, if Members take the time to see some of that stuff online, it is extremely disturbing and alarming. It is a world that we do not understand, but we have to be aware that it exists. The truth, as we can see, is that such groups use popular online platforms to lure in young people and give them a sense of community. One white nationalist group actively targets younger recruits and recently started Call of Duty warcraft gaming tournaments for its supporters. Let us be clear: John was 15, but he could easily have been 18, 19 or indeed significantly older.

John was radicalised by the far right, but we know that similar methods are used by Islamist extremists. A 2020 report from New York University’s Centre for Global Affairs stated:

“The age of social media has allowed ISIS to connect with a large-scale global audience that it would not be able to reach without it...Through strategic targeting, ISIS selects those who are most vulnerable and susceptible to radicalization”.

That includes those who are

“searching for meaning or purpose in their life, feeling anger and…alienated from society”.

The ages that are most vulnerable are 15 to 25.

Social media platforms allow ISIS to present its propaganda as mainstream news at little to no cost. Preventing that harm and breaking those chains of radicalisation is, however, possible, and the Bill could go much further to put the responsibility not on the user, but on the platforms. I believe that those platforms need unique regulation, because social media interaction is fundamentally different from real-life social interaction.

Social media presents content to us as if it is the only voice and viewpoint. On social media, people are far more likely to say things that they never would in person. On social media, those views spread like wildfire in a way that they would not in real life. On social media, algorithms find such content and pump it towards us, in a way that can become overwhelming and that can provide validity and reassurance where doubt might otherwise set in.

Allowing that content to remain online without warnings, or allowing it to be visible to all users unless they go searching through their settings to turn it off—which is wholly unrealistic—is a dereliction of duty and a missed opportunity to clean up the platforms and break the chains of radicalisation. As I set out, the chain of events is not unique to one form of radicalisation or hateful content. The same online algorithms that present extremist content to users also promote negative body image, eating disorders, and self-harm and suicide content.

I hope the Committee realises why I am so impassioned about “legal but harmful” clauses, and why I am particularly upset that a few Conservative Members appear to believe that such content should remain unchecked online because of free speech, with full knowledge that it is exactly that content that serves as the gateway for people to self-harm and to be radicalised. That is not free speech.

There is broad consensus across the Committee that the Bill as a whole must do greater good than harm and lead the world in effectively regulating the internet for the benefit and safety of its users. However, there remains a number of considerable gaps that will allow harm to continue online. One small step that the Government could commit to today—I urge the Minister to do so—is to accept at least the Opposition amendment (a) to amendment 15 and amendment (a) to amendmentâ 16, which would define and explicitly categorise content that incites hateful extremism as harmful content in the Bill, ensuring that platforms have a responsibility to find, label and hopefully hide that content from users by default. The Government can be assured of the Opposition’s support to strengthen the Bill further, including in the “legal but harmful” area, in the face of a very small number of Conservative Members who are resisting on the basis of ideological purity rather than of preventing real life harm.

Allowing such content freely on platforms and doing nothing to ensure that smaller but high-harm platforms are brought into the remit of this Bill is a backward step. We should be strengthening, not weakening, the Bill in this Committee. That is why I oppose the Government’s position and wholeheartedly support the Opposition’s amendments to clause 14.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 3:00, 13 Rhagfyr 2022

I have talked a little already about these amendments, so let me sum up where I think we are. I talked about harmful health content and why it is not included. The Online Safety Bill will force social media companies to tackle health misinformation and disinformation online, where it constitutes a criminal offence. It includes the communications offence, which would capture posts encouraging dangerous hoax cures, where the sender knows the information to be false and intends to cause harm, such as encouraging drinking bleach to cure cancer, which we heard about a little earlier.

The legislation is only one part of the wider Government approach to this issue. It includes the work of the counter-disinformation unit, which brings together cross-Government monitoring and analysis capabilities and engages with platforms directly to ensure that appropriate action is taken, in addition to the Government’s work to build users’ resilience to misinformation through media literacy.

Including harmful health content as a category risks requiring companies to apply the adult user empowerment tools to an unfeasibly large volume of content—way beyond just the vaccine efficacy that was mentioned. That has implications both for regulatory burden and for freedom of expression, as it may capture important health advice. Similarly, on climate change, the Online Safety Bill itself will introduce new transparency, accountability and free speech duties and category one services. If a platform said that certain types of content are not allowed, it will be held to account for their removal.

We recognised that there was a heightened risk of disinformation surrounding the COP26 summit. The counter-disinformation unit led by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport brought together monitoring and analysis capabilities across Government to understand disinformation that posed a risk to public safety or to delegates or that represented attempts at interference from malign actors. We are clear that free debate is essential to a democracy and that the counter-disinformation unit should not infringe upon political debate. Government already work closely with the major social media platforms to encourage them to collaborate at speed to remove disinformation as per their terms of service.

Amendment (a) to amendment 15 and amendment (a) to amendment 16 would create that new category of content that incites hateful extremism. That is closely aligned with the approach that the Government are already taking with amendment 15, specifically subsections (8C) and (8D), which create a category of content that is abusive or incites hate on the basis of race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, disability, or gender reassignment. Those conditions would likely capture the majority of the kinds of content that the hon. Members are seeking to capture through their hateful extremism category. For example, it would capture antisemitic abuse and conspiracy theories, racist abuse and promotion of racist ideologies.

Furthermore, where companies’ terms of service say they prohibit or apply restrictions to the kind of content listed in the Opposition amendments, companies must ensure that those terms are consistently enforced. It comes back so much to the enforcement. They must also ensure that the terms of service are easily understandable.

Photo of Charlotte Nichols Charlotte Nichols Llafur, Warrington North

If this is about companies enforcing what is in their terms of service for the use of their platforms, could it not create a perverse incentive for them to have very little in their terms of service? If they will be punished for not enforcing their terms of service, surely they will want them to be as lax as possible in order to limit their legal liability for enforcing them. Does the Minister follow?

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I follow, but I do not agree. The categories of content in proposed new subsections (8C) and (8D), introduced by amendment 15, underpin a lot of this. I answered the question in an earlier debate when talking about the commercial impetus. I cannot imagine many mainstream advertisers wanting to advertise with a company that removed from its terms of service the exclusion of racial abuse, misogyny and general abuse. We have seen that commercial impetus really kicking in with certain platforms. For those reasons, I am unable to accept the amendments to the amendments, and I hope that the Opposition will not press them to a vote.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister (Tech, Gambling and the Digital Economy)

I am grateful for the opportunity to push the Minister further. I asked him whether he could outline where the list in amendment 15 came from. Will he publish the research that led him to compile that specific list of priority harms?

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

The definitions that we have taken are ones that strike the right balance and have a comparatively high threshold, so that they do not capture challenging and robust discussions on controversial topics.

Amendment 8 agreed to.

Amendments made: 9, in clause 14, page 14, line 5, after “to” insert “effectively”.

This amendment strengthens the duty in this clause by requiring that the systems or processes used to deal with the kinds of content described in subsections (8B) to (8D) (see Amendment 15) should be designed to effectively increase users’ control over such content.

Amendment 10, in clause 14, page 14, line 6, leave out from “encountering” to “the” in line 7 and insert

“content to which subsection (2) applies present on”.

This amendment inserts a reference to the kinds of content now relevant for this clause, instead of referring to priority content that is harmful to adults.

Amendment 11, in clause 14, page 14, line 9, leave out from “to” to end of line 10 and insert

“content present on the service that is a particular kind of content to which subsection (2) applies”.—(Paul Scully.)

This amendment inserts a reference to the kinds of content now relevant for this clause, instead of referring to priority content that is harmful to adults.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister (Tech, Gambling and the Digital Economy)

I beg to move amendment 102, in clause 14, page 14, line 12, leave out “made available to” and insert “in operation for”.

This amendment, and Amendment 103, relate to the tools proposed in Clause 14 which will be available for individuals to use on platforms to protect themselves from harm. This amendment specifically forces platforms to have these safety tools “on” by default.

Photo of Angela Eagle Angela Eagle Llafur, Wallasey

With this it will be convenient to discuss amendment 103, in clause 14, page 14, line 15, leave out “take advantage of” and insert “disapply”.

This amendment relates to Amendment 102.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister (Tech, Gambling and the Digital Economy)

The amendments relate to the tools proposed in clause 14, which as we know will be available for individuals to use on platforms to protect themselves from harm. As the Minister knows, Labour fundamentally disagrees with that approach, which will place the onus on the user, rather than the platform, to protect themselves from harmful content. It is widely recognised that the purpose of this week’s Committee proceedings is to allow the Government to remove the so-called “legal but harmful” clauses and replace them with the user empowerment tool option. Let us be clear that that goes against the very essence of the Bill, which was created to address the particular way in which social media allows content to be shared, spread and broadcast around the world at speed.

This approach could very well see a two-tier internet system develop, which leaves those of us who choose to utilise the user empowerment tools ignorant of harmful content perpetuated elsewhere for others to see. The tools proposed in clause 14, however, reflect something that we all know to be true: that there is some very harmful content out there for us all to see online. We can all agree that individuals should therefore have access to the appropriate tools to protect themselves. It is also right that providers will be required to ensure that adults have greater choice and control over the content that they see and engage with, but let us be clear that instead of focusing on defining exactly what content is or is not harmful, the Bill should focus on the processes by which harmful content is amplified on social media.

However, we are where we are, and Labour believes that it is better to have the Bill over the line, with a regulator in place with some powers, than simply to do nothing at all. With that in mind, we have tabled the amendment specifically to force platforms to have safety tools on by default. We believe that the user empowerment tools should be on by default and that they must be appropriately visible and easy to use. We must recognise that for people at a point of crisis—if a person is suffering with depressive or suicidal thoughts, or with significant personal isolation, for example—the tools may not be at the forefront of their minds if their mental state is severely impacted.

On a similar point, we must not patronise the public. Labour sees no rational argument why the Government would not support the amendment. We should all assume that if a rational adult is able to easily find and use these user empowerment tools, then they will be easily able to turn them off if they choose to do so.

The Minister knows that I am not in the habit of guessing but, judging from our private conversations, his rebuttal to my points may be because he believes it is not the Government’s role to impose rules directly on platforms, particularly when they impact their functionality. However, for Labour, the existence of harm and the importance of protecting people online tips the balance in favour of turning these user empowerment tools on by default. We see no negative reason why that should not be the case, and we now have a simple amendment that could have a significantly positive impact.

I hope the Minister and colleagues will reflect strongly on these amendments, as we believe they are a reasonable and simple ask of platforms to do the right thing and have the user empowerment tools on by default.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

Once again, this is a very smart amendment that I wish I had thought of myself and I am happy to support. The case made by those campaigning for freedom of speech at any cost is about people being able to say what they want to say, no matter how harmful that may be. It is not about requiring me, or anyone else, to read those things—the harmful bile, the holocaust denial or the promotion of suicide that is spouted. It is not freedom of speech to require someone else to see and read such content so I cannot see any potential argument that the Government could come up with against these amendments.

The amendments have nothing to do with freedom of speech or with limiting people’s ability to say whatever they want to say or to promote whatever untruths they want to promote. However, they are about making sure that people are protected and that they are starting from a position of having to opt in if they want to see harmful content. If I want to see content about holocaust denial—I do not want to see that, but if I did—I should have to clearly tick a button that says, “Yes, I am pretty extreme in my views and I want to see things that are abusing people. I want to see that sort of content.” I should have to opt in to be able to see that.

There are a significant number of newspapers out there. I will not even pick up a lot of them because there is so much stuff in them with which I disagree, but I can choose not to pick them up. I do not have that newspaper served to me against my will because I have the opportunity to choose to opt out from buying it. I do not have to go into the supermarket and say, “No, please do not give me that newspaper!” I just do not pick it up. If we put the Government’s proposal on its head and do what has been suggested in the Opposition amendments, everyone would be in a much better position.

Photo of Charlotte Nichols Charlotte Nichols Llafur, Warrington North

I note that many providers of 4G internet, including the one I have on my own phone, already block adult content. Essentially, if people want to look at pornography or other forms of content, they have to proactively opt in to be allowed to see it. Would it not make sense to make something as straightforward as that, which already exists, into the model that we want on the internet more widely, as opposed to leaving it to EE and others to do?

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I absolutely agree. Another point that has been made is that this is not creating undue burden; the Government are already creating the burden for companies—I am not saying that it is a bad burden, but the Government are already creating it. We just want people to have the opportunity to opt into it, or out of it. That is the position that we are in.

My hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge, Chryston and Bellshill and I were having a conversation earlier about how the terms of service might say that holocaust denial was banned. Potentially, however, the terms of service could say, “You may see content that is about holocaust denial on our platform, because we don’t ban it.” They could explicitly have to warn people about the presence of that content.

The Opposition are suggesting flipping the issue on its head. As the hon. Member for Batley and Spen said, there is no way that people go on to Facebook and imagine that they will see extremist content. Most people do not imagine that they will be led down this rabbit hole of increasing extremism on Facebook, because Facebook is where we go to speak to our friends, to see our auntie’s holiday photos or to communicate with people.

The Minister was making slightly light of the fact that there are other ways to communicate—yes, absolutely, but two of the communities that I spend a lot of time in and where I get an awful lot of support and friendship exist only on Facebook. That is the only place where I can have those relationships with friends who live all around the world, because that is where the conversation is taking place. I will not choose to opt out of that, because I would be cut off from two of my support networks. I do not think it is right that we should be told, “If you don’t want to see extremist content, just don’t be a member of Facebook”—or whatever platform it happens to be.

That is not the way to go; we should be writing in the protections. We should be starting from the point of view that no one wants to see content on the promotion of suicide; if they do, they can tick a box to see it. We should start from that point of view: allowing people to opt in if they want to see free speech in an untrammelled way on whatever platform it is.

Photo of Kim Leadbeater Kim Leadbeater Llafur, Batley and Spen 3:15, 13 Rhagfyr 2022

I will speak briefly in favour of amendments 102 and 103. As I mentioned a few moments ago, legal but harmful content can act as the gateway to dangerous radicalisation and extremism. Such content, hosted by mainstream social media platforms, should not be permitted unchecked online. I appreciate tható for children the content will be banned, but I strongly believe that the default position should be for such content to be hidden by default to all adult users, as the amendments would ensure.

The chain of events that leads to radicalisation, as I spelt out, relies on groups and individuals reaching people unaware that they are being radicalised. The content is posted in otherwise innocent Facebook groups, forums or Twitter threads. Adding a toggle, hidden somewhere in users’ settings, which few people know about or use, will do nothing to stop that. It will do nothing to stop the harmful content from reaching vulnerable and susceptible users.

We, as legislators, have an obligation to prevent at root that harmful content reaching and drawing in those vulnerable and susceptible to the misinformation and conspiracy spouted by vile groups and individuals wishing to spread their harm. The only way that we can make meaningful progress is by putting the responsibility squarely on platforms, to ensure that by default users do not come across the content in the first place.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

In the previous debate, I talked about amendment 15, which brought in a lot of protections against content that encourages and promotes, or provides instruction for, self-harm, suicide or eating disorders, and against content that is abusive or incites hate on the base of race, religion, disability, sex, gender reassignment or sexual orientation. We have also placed a duty on the largest platforms to offer adults the option to filter out unverified users if they so wish. That is a targeted approach that reflects areas where vulnerable users in particular could benefit from having greater choice and control. I come back to the fact that that is the third shield and an extra safety net. A lot of the extremes we have heard about, which have been used as debating points, as important as they are, should very much be wrapped up by the first two shields.

We have a targeted approach, but it is based on choice. It is right that adult users have a choice about what they see online and who they interact with. It is right that this choice lies in the hands of those adults. The Government mandating that these tools be on by default goes against the central aim of users being empowered to choose for themselves whether they want to reduce their engagement with some kinds of legal content.

We have been clear right from the beginning that it is not the Government’s role to say what legal content adults should or should not view online or to incentivise the removal of legal content. That is why we removed the adult legal but harmful duties in the first place. I believe we are striking the right balance between empowering adult users online and protecting freedom of expression. For that reason, I am not able to accept the amendments from the hon. Member for Pontypridd.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister (Tech, Gambling and the Digital Economy)

It is disappointing that the Government are refusing to back these amendments to place the toggle as “on” by default. It is something that we see as a safety net, as the Minister described. Why would someone have to choose to have the safety net there? If someone does not want it, they can easily take it away. The choice should be that way around, because it is there to protect all of us.

Photo of Charlotte Nichols Charlotte Nichols Llafur, Warrington North

I am sure that, like me, the shadow Minister will be baffled that the Government are against our proposals to have to opt out. Surely this is something that is of key concern to the Government, given that the former MP for Tiverton and Honiton might still be an MP if users had to opt in to watching pornography, rather than being accidentally shown it when innocently searching for tractors?

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister (Tech, Gambling and the Digital Economy)

My hon. Friend makes a very good point. It goes to show the nature of this as a protection for all of us, even MPs, from accessing content that could be harmful to our health or, indeed, profession. Given the nature of the amendment, we feel that this is a safety net that should be available to all. It should be on by default.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport

I should say that in the spirit of choice, companies can also choose to default it to be switched off in the first place as well.

Photo of Alex Davies-Jones Alex Davies-Jones Shadow Minister (Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), Shadow Minister (Tech, Gambling and the Digital Economy)

The Minister makes the point that companies can choose to have it off by default, but we would not need this Bill in the first place if companies did the right thing. Let us be clear: we would not have had to be here debating this for the past five years —for me it has been 12 months—if companies were going to do the right thing and protect people from harmful content online. On that basis, I will push the amendments to a vote.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Rhif adran 3 Online Safety Bill — Clause 14 - User empowerment duties

Ie: 6 MPs

Na: 8 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 8.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendment made: 12, in clause 14, page 14, line 12, at end insert

“and are easy to access”.—(Paul Scully.)

This amendment requires providers to ensure that features for users to increase their control over content described in subsections (8B) to (8D) (see Amendment 15) are easy to access.

Amendment proposed: 103, in clause 14, page 14, line 15, leave out “take advantage of” and insert “disapply”.—(Alex Davies-Jones.)

This amendment relates to Amendment 102.

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Rhif adran 4 Online Safety Bill — Clause 14 - User empowerment duties

Ie: 6 MPs

Na: 8 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 8.

Question accordingly negatived.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

I beg to move amendment 101, in clause 14, page 14, line 17, at end insert—

“(6A) A duty to ensure features and provisions in subsections (2), (4) and (6) are accessible and understandable to adult users with learning disabilities.”

This amendment creates a duty that user empowerment functions must be accessible and understandable to adult users with learning disabilities.

This issue was originally brought to my attention by Mencap. It is incredibly important, and it has potentially not been covered adequately by either our previous discussions of the Bill or the Bill itself. The amendment is specifically about ensuring that available features are accessible to adult users with learning disabilities. An awful lot of people use the internet, and people should not be excluded from using it and having access to safety features because they have a learning disability. That should not be the case, for example, when someone is trying to find how to report something on a social media platform. I had an absolute nightmare trying to report a racist gif that was offered in the list of gifs that came up. There is no potential way to report that racist gif to Facebook because it does not take responsibility for it, and GIPHY does not take responsibility for it because it might not be a GIPHY gif.

It is difficult to find the ways to report some of this stuff and to find some of the privacy settings. Even when someone does find the privacy settings, on a significant number of these platforms they do not make much sense—they are not understandable. I am able to read fairly well, I would think, and I am able to speak in the House of Commons, but I still do not understand some of the stuff in the privacy features found on some social media sites. I cannot find how to toggle off things that I want to toggle off on the level of accessibility or privacy that I have, particularly on social media platforms; I will focus on those for the moment. The Bill will not achieve even its intended purpose if all people using these services cannot access or understand the safety features and user empowerment tools.

I am quite happy to talk about the difference between the real world and the online world. My online friends have no problem with me talking about the real world as if it is something different, because it is. In the real world, we have a situation where things such as cuckooing take place and people take advantage of vulnerable adults. Social services, the police and various organisations are on the lookout for that and try to do what they can to put protections in place. I am asking for more parity with the real world here. Let us ensure that we have the protections in place, and that people who are vulnerable and taken advantage of far too often have access to those tools in order to protect themselves. It is particularly reasonable.

Let us say that somebody with a learning disability particularly likes cats; the Committee may have worked out that I also particularly like cats. Let us say that they want to go on TikTok or YouTube and look at videos of cats. They have to sign up to watch videos of cats. They may not have the capacity or understanding to know that there might be extreme content on those sites. They may not be able to grasp that. It may never cross their minds that there could be extreme content on that site. When they are signing up to TikTok, they should not have to go and find the specific toggle to switch off eating disorder content. All they had thought about was that this is a cool place to look at videos of cats.

I am asking the Minister to make it really clear that these tools should be available and accessible to everybody, and that Ofcom will look at that availability and accessibility and listen to experts who say that there is a real issue with a certain website because the tools are not as accessible as they should be. Would the Minister be kind enough to make that incredibly clear, so that platforms are aware of the direction and the intention? Ofcom also needs to be aware that this is a priority and that these tools should be available to everyone in order to provide that level of accessibly, and in order that everybody can enjoy cat videos.

Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 3:30, 13 Rhagfyr 2022

I am happy to do that. In the same way that we spoke this morning about children’s protection, I am very aware of the terms of service and what people are getting into by looking for cats or whatever they want to do.

The Bill requires providers to make all the usual enforcement and protection tools available to all adults, including those with learning disabilities. Clause 14(4) makes it explicitly clear that features offered by providers, in compliance with the duty for users to be given greater control over the content that they see, must be made available to all adult users. Clause 14(5) further outlines that providers must have clear and accessible terms of service about what tools are offered in their service and how users may take advantage of them. We have strengthened the accessibility of the user enforcement duties through Government amendment 12 as well, to make sure that user enforcement tools and features are easy for users to access.

In addition, clause 58(1) says that providers must offer all adult users the option to verify themselves so that vulnerable users, including those with learning disabilities, are not at a disadvantage as a result of the user empowerment duties. Clause 59(2) and (3) further stipulate that in producing the guidance for providers about the user verification duty, Ofcom must have particular regard to the desirability of making identity verification available to vulnerable adult users, and must consult with persons who represent the interests of vulnerable adult users. That is about getting the thoughts of experts and advocates into their processes to make sure that they can enforce what is going on.

In addition, Ofcom is subject to the public sector equality duty, so it will have to take into account the ways in which people with disabilities may be impacted when performing its duties, such as writing its codes of practice for the user empowerment duty. I hope the hon. Member will appreciate the fact that, in a holistic way, that covers the essence of exactly what she is trying to do in her amendment, so I do not believe her amendment is necessary.

Photo of Kirsty Blackman Kirsty Blackman Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Cabinet Office)

In view of the Minister’s statement, I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Amendments made: 13, in clause 14, page 14, line 26, leave out paragraph (a) and insert—

“(a) the likelihood of adult users encountering content to which subsection (2) applies by means of the service, and”

This amendment is about factors relevant to the proportionality of measures to comply with the duty in subsection (2). The new wording replaces a reference to an adults’ risk assessment, as adults’ risk assessments are no longer required (see Amendment 6 which removes clause 12).

Amendment 14, in clause 14, page 14, line 29, leave out “a” and insert “the”.—(Paul Scully.)

This is a technical amendment consequential on Amendment 13.

Amendment (a) proposed to amendment 15: (a), at end insert—

“(8E) Content is within this subsection if it—

(a) incites hateful extremism,

(b) provides false information about climate change, or

(c) is harmful to health.”—

Question put, That the amendment be made.

Rhif adran 5 Online Safety Bill — Clause 14 - User empowerment duties

Ie: 6 MPs

Na: 8 MPs

Ie: A-Z fesul cyfenw

Na: A-Z fesul cyfenw

The Committee divided: Ayes 6, Noes 8.

Question accordingly negatived.

Amendments made: 15, in clause 14, page 14, line 29, at end insert—

“(8A) Subsection (2) applies to content that—

(a) is regulated user-generated content in relation to the service in question, and

(b) is within subsection (8B), (8C) or (8D).

(8B) Content is within this subsection if it encourages, promotes or provides instructions for—

(a) suicide or an act of deliberate self-injury, or

(b) an eating disorder or behaviours associated with an eating disorder.

(8C) Content is within this subsection if it is abusive and the abuse targets any of the following characteristics—

(a) race,

(b) religion,

(c) sex,

(d) sexual orientation,

(e) disability, or

(f) gender reassignment.

(8D) Content is within this subsection if it incites hatred against people—

(a) of a particular race, religion, sex or sexual orientation,

(b) who have a disability, or

(c) who have the characteristic of gender reassignment.”

This amendment describes the content relevant to the duty in subsection (2) of clause 14. The effect is (broadly) that providers must offer users tools to reduce their exposure to these kinds of content.

Amendment 16, in clause 14, page 14, line 30, leave out subsection (9) and insert—

“(9) In this section—

‘disability’ means any physical or mental impairment;

‘injury’ includes poisoning;

‘non-verified user’ means a user who has not verified their identity to the provider of a service (see section 58(1));

‘race includes colour, nationality, and ethnic or national origins.”

This amendment inserts definitions of terms now used in clause 14.

Amendment 17, in clause 14, page 14, line 33, at end insert

“, and

(b) references to religion include references to a lack of religion.

(11) For the purposes of this section, a person has the characteristic of gender reassignment if the person is proposing to undergo, is undergoing or has undergone a process (or part of a process) for the purpose of reassigning the person’s sex by changing physiological or other attributes of sex, and the reference to gender reassignment in subsection (8C) is to be construed accordingly.” —

This amendment clarifies the meaning of terms now used in clause 14.

Clause 14, as amended, ordered to stand part of the Bill.