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MP urges tougher action on pornography

Online Safety
14 January 2022
Carla Lockhart MP

UK Government online safety plans must include tough regulation of pornography, and children need to be protected whilst the proposals are being debated by parliament, an MP has said.

Yesterday, MPs debated a Joint Committee report on the Draft Online Safety Bill, published last year. The legislation would establish a new regulatory framework to tackle "harmful content" online.

The Committee has made a series of helpful recommendations on the regulation of pornographic content. However, Carla Lockhart MP argued that it should have advised a "more robust approach".

Speaking yesterday, Ms Lockhart said:

"I believe that the Joint Committee should have offered a more robust approach to improving the legislation and safeguarding children in particular from the serious harm caused by pornography.

"First, if the report’s suggestion of replacing clause 11 of the Bill with a list of online harms is accepted by the Government, pornography should be listed as an online harm.

"For many of us in this House it was troubling that the Government in 2019 abandoned part 3 of the Digital Economy Act 2017, leaving children with no protection online."

The MP welcomed other recommendations on age verification - a tool to prevent children accessing pornographic websites. But she stressed this must come before the online safety regime is agreed.

She said, "it is welcome that the Joint Committee has proposed age verification through the age-appropriate design code.

"Two concerns remain: whether the provision is as robust as the Digital Economy Act, and the timeframe for enacting it and the children who will consequently stumble on this type of material.

"In the interim, the Government must implement part 3 of the 2017 Act, and then the design code and this Bill can be used to offer greater protection."

Responding to points raised about pornography regulation in the debate, Government Minister Chris Philp said:

"We have...heard clearly the messages concerning commercial pornography. We understand the issues presented by the fact that the Bill, as drafted, does not cover that...that is something we are currently working on very hard indeed."

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