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Protection of Online Users

Volume 695: debated on Thursday 20 May 2021

What steps his Department is taking to (a) protect users online and (b) improve the accountability of technology companies. (900236)

Last week we published the Online Safety Bill. For the first time, tech companies will be held accountable by an independent regulator for keeping their users, especially children, safe from harmful content and behaviours online. If companies fail to keep their users safe, Ofcom will have the power to fine companies up to £18 million or 10% of their annual global turnover.

I thank the Minister for her answer. This is an incredibly important policy area. As well as the online harms that she mentioned, an increasing number of people throughout the country, including in my Aylesbury constituency, sadly fall prey to online financial scams, which can not only have a profound impact on somebody’s financial status but result in great anxiety for victims. Will the Minister outline the action her Department will take to ensure that technology companies really step up and play a full part, alongside the police and banks, to protect us all from online fraud and identity theft?

I thank my hon. Friend for raising this issue, which he is absolutely right to do, because we know that scams of this kind can ruin lives and, as he says, a growing number of people are encountering them online. The Government are approaching the issue in three ways. First, we are working closely with law enforcement, technology companies and banks to tackle online fraud at source. That work is led by the Home Office, which is currently developing an ambitious fraud action plan, on which we have been providing support. The Online Safety Bill that we published last week will tackle any kind of fraud that is facilitated through user-generated content. On top of that, we are consulting on tougher advertising regulation and will be doing that later this year.