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World News

Changes made to Online Safety Bill as campaigners say government has taken long enough

by Sophie Drew

A new version of the Online Safety Bill is to be brought forward to the House of Commons before Christmas, and Christian campaigners are urging the government not to let it slip through the cracks. 

Previously, the bill contained a controversial provision surrounding content that was “legal but harmful.” 

It made reference to content that was well-within the parameters of the law but was still harmful if witnessed by young or vulnerable people. 

That aspect of the bill – which is widely cited as the reason for very significant delays because of the vague terminology used - is now believed to have been removed.

Free speech organisations are celebrating the return of the bill, which will now focus on children’s safety predominantly. 

This comes after significant pressure from parents and campaigners, many of whom have seen children and young people significantly harmed after seeing inappropriate content online. 

James Mildred, from Christian charity CARE – and organisation that has campaigned on the issue for a number of years – said: “News that the government has rethought controversial aspects of the bill targeting ‘legal but harmful’ expression is welcome and we will await further detail of this. 

“CARE and many other organisations are concerned central civil liberties are threatened by the bill. 

“The fact that Ministers are aware of the need to protect vulnerable children is also to be welcomed, although they are certainly taking their time about it.

“Brits were promised better protections for children from online pornography in 2016. A law passed by parliament was never actually enacted by Ministers, and later scrapped. 

“Age verification measures then reappeared in the Online Safety Bill but have been kicked down the road time and again. Children can no longer afford to wait for the safeguards they desperately need.”

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