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Far-right Online Conspiracy Theories

Volume 688: debated on Thursday 4 February 2021

The Government take the issue of disinformation, including far-right conspiracy theories, very seriously, and DCMS is leading work across Government to tackle this. Our counter-disinformation unit brings together monitoring and analysis capabilities across Government, and we work closely with social media platforms to ensure that swift action is taken and authoritative sources of information are promoted.

To tackle far-right extremism and conspiracy theories that undermine our vaccine roll-out, new legislation is urgently needed. Social media companies must take responsibility for the content shared on their platforms. Can the Minister therefore update the House on when the online harms Bill will be introduced, and give her assurances that the Bill will achieve this vital aim, which will keep our country safe?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question. As I have said, tackling disinformation in all its forms, including vaccine disinformation, remains a key priority for the UK. As we set out in the full Government response, the online safety Bill will introduce a duty of care that requires companies to address online harms such as harmful disinformation that could impact on people’s health and safety on their platforms, and that legislation will be put forward this year.

Mr Speaker:

“No one should have to accept racist abuse as the price to pay for being in the public eye”,

the Secretary of State assured footballers. No one should have to accept racist abuse full stop, and no one should be subject to extremist grooming or have their lives endangered by anti-vax misinformation, but they are, and for 10 years Conservative Governments have refused to act. As the head of UK Counter Terrorism Policing tells us, extremism has become so widespread online that it “cannot be policed”. Will the Minister say what steps she has taken to protect us and, please, no more vague assurances for the future?

Of course, we want the internet to be a very safe space for all users, and we are very clear that what is unacceptable online is just as important as what is unacceptable offline. That is why we are absolutely committed to tackling extremist views, racist views and views that promote violence, hatred and division against individuals and against communities. We want the internet to be a safe space for all users, which is why the online harms framework will require companies to have very clear terms and conditions about how they would respond to such hateful content, and they will be expected to implement those conditions consistently and transparently.