SoE welcomes Committee Chair’s support for news publishers in Online Harms battle

Posted on: September 1, 2020 by admin

The Society of Editors (SoE) has welcomed the support of the powerful Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee in its bid to ensure news publishers are not damaged by proposed new Online Harms legislation.

The committee’s chairman, Julian Knight MP, has written to the Culture Minister John Whittingdale urging him to ensure any new legislation is not directed towards news websites.

The SoE, along with other media organisations, has expressed fears the new legislation will lead to online platforms using a heavy-handed approach to remove legitimate coverage and debate from their sites.

The industry along with the SoE has called for an exemption for legitimate news media sites from the proposed laws, however the Home Office has expressed concerns such an exemption would create loopholes for others to exploit.

Mr Knight, Tory MP for Solihull, told Mr Whittingdale that the DCMS and the Home Office should allow an exemption for authenticated and reliable news sources.

Ian Murray, executive director at the SoE, said he welcomed Mr Knight’s intervention which echoed what the Society has been urging government to recognise.

“While we certainly do support action by the government to address the very real harms on the web in the form of child abuse, terrorist action and other areas, we must ensure that legitimate debate over such issues is not stifled. 

“We appreciate the government has said that the media are not the target of the proposed legislation, however it is hard to see how the tech platforms will not be forced to use heavy-handed techniques such as algorithms to weed out suspected harmful content, and news content and debate is certain to be caught up in such actions.”