Government details amendment to Online Safety Bill appeals process

Posted on: April 21, 2022 by Claire Meadows

Assurances have been made by the government this week that an amendment will be tabled to the Online Safety Bill to ensure journalistic content cannot be taken down by social media platforms until a right of appeal has taken place.

The assurances were made by Chris Philp, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) during a debate on the Bill on Tuesday 19 April 2022.

Responding to a question from John Whittingdale MP and Damian Green MP as to any forthcoming additional protections for journalistic content in the draft legislation, Philp confirmed that an amendment would be tabled in respect of an appeals process for the removal of journalistic content.

He said: “We intend to table a government amendment—a point that my right hon. Friends the Members for Maldon and for Ashford (Damian Green) asked me to confirm—to make sure that journalistic content cannot be removed until a proper right of appeal has taken place. I am pleased to confirm that now.”

Following the publication of the updated Online Safety Bill last month, the Society said that the bill did not go far enough to protect journalistic content online and called on the government to fulfil its stated intention to include further amendments during the passage of the bill. The Society has previously said that any appeals process for the removal of journalistic content must reflect the reality of the fast-news cycle if it is to be in any way effective.

Nadine Dorries MP, the Secretary of State for DCMS, also said on Tuesday that “further work” was going into the Bill to ensure that journalistic content remained online which any appeals process took place.

She said: Not only will the Bill protect journalistic content, democratic content and democratic free speech, but if one of the tech companies wanted to take down journalistic content, the Bill includes a right of appeal for journalists, which currently does not exist. We are doing further work on that to ensure that content remains online while the appeal takes place. The appeal process has to be robust and consistent across the board for all the appeals that take place. We have already done more work on that issue in this version of the Bill and we are looking to do more as we move forward.”

The full transcript of the debate can be read here