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News industry chiefs express concern over Online Safety Bill

·2-min read

News industry chiefs have expressed concern about how new laws to regulate social media platforms could affect the work of journalists.

The Online Safety Bill is designed to make tech firms more accountable for user-generated harmful content hosted on their platforms, ranging from child sex exploitation to terrorism, overseen by Ofcom.

Although the draft Bill exempts journalism, experts are concerned it does not go far enough to protect the sector and gives social networks too much power to define what counts as journalism.

Lexie Kirkconnell-Kawana, head of regulation at independent regulator Impress, told MPs on Tuesday: “The Bill sets out that the platforms are to define what the purposes of journalism are.

“Now, that places a lot of power on these platforms to define potentially in their own interest, potentially in their own ways … what journalism wouldn’t be protected on the platforms.”

Michelle Stanistreet, general secretary of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ), told the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-Committee on Online Harms and Disinformation that the powers of appeal “need further tightening and further checks and balances”.

“It’s going to be quite a challenge for many journalists to try to properly avail themselves of this in a timely manner that kind of acknowledges the fast-moving cycle of news,” she said.

Ms Stanistreet expressed concern that the Bill as it stands could also give “too much power” to the Secretary of State for Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

“It’s not about the Secretary of State of any moment in time; this is about the role and the function that that forms and, absolutely, the NUJ believes that role within the Bill as it stands, it’s too much power, to whoever is going to be in that position now or in the future,” she said.

“And that’s absolutely something that we wish to see addressed; it’s not appropriate, and it’s not healthy.”

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