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MPs say draft online safety laws not "clear or robust"

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MPs say draft online safety laws not "clear or robust"

MPs who have been supportive of Zach's Law argue that there is still more to do in tightening the draft online safety laws.

The Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee, which scrutinises the department of the same name, has published its report into the Draft Online Safety Bill.

The committee, which is made up of MPs from all major political parties, has warned that the Bill is not "clear or robust enough" to tackle illegal and harmful content on social media. 

These findings follow on from reports by the Law Commission and the Joint Committee on the Draft Online Safety Bill, both of which backed the Epilepsy Society's Zach's Law campaign.

Zach's Law, named after 10-year-old campaigner Zach Eagling, would make it a crime to send flashing images to people with epilepsy with the intent to cause a seizure. Speaking earlier this month, Chris Philp, the minister for digital economy, said the government were looking "positively and carefully" at Zach's Law. 

Although the report does not directly mention Zach's Law, members of the committee have shown support for its inclusion in the Bill. Julian Knight, chair of the committee, has publicly supported the Epilepsy Society's campaign saying that a specific offence to criminalise the sending of flashing images "must be included in the Bill."

Another member of the committee, John Nicolson MP, has been a vocal supporter of Zach's Law, calling online trolls who send flashing images "evil" and "cruel." 

The report says that the Bill should include recommended preventative and remedial measures for social media companies to follow, including tagging and labelling, disabling certain engagement options such as “likes” and redacting. 

The report also raises concerns about if the Bill may be too restrictive on freedom of expression and whether it does enough to limit child abuse and violence against women and girls. 

The report additionally criticises the plan for a government-created joint committee to oversee online safety, believing that this will "undermine parliamentary scrutiny" rather than enhance it. And it says that the powers given to Ofcom to regulate online safety are "unclear and impractical."

The government, which has pledged to publish a finalised version of the Bill within the next few months, has said the legislation will make the UK "the safest place in the world to be online."



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