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Division Details - Lords House of Lords

19:25, 20 March 2017, Division 4: Digital Economy Bill

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Report (2nd Day) (Continued)

Pre Vote

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister. We support and agree with many of the initiatives that he has outlined. As has been said before, there are opportunities for us to participate in discussions on the Green Paper and the wider issues of internet safety. We welcome all those initiatives, but the list which the Minister gave very much puts the onus on parents, children and everyone else in society to behave well, be better educated and have the proper tools to navigate the internet safely. It did not put so much of an onus on the actual problem, which is that social media sites are encouraging and facilitating this bad behaviour.

Although we do not want to take anything away from the Government, there is still a major problem. The voluntary initiatives that we have so far required social media sites to take have not come up with the goods. The Minister said that things were getting better. I disagree; things are getting worse. We have heard examples from around the Chamber that children are feeling more intimidated and bullied; they are accessing suicide sites in a quite unacceptable way. Sites are not taking down this material when it is drawn to their attention. There continues to be a rather urgent challenge. Without wishing to overplay the Australian model, one can put systems in place to make this happen. It is not beyond their technical capacity to put the measures in place—they just need the proper encouragement. I do not want to take anything away from what the Government have said, but there is a level of urgency with this particular problem about social media sites.

The Minister also said that he had a problem with the wording of the amendment. I do not see what is wrong with an “overarching duty of care” for young people. It is all encompassing and I would hope that any responsible social media site would broadly welcome that initiative. He also said that it was not clear how the sites would make reference to the police. In the Australian system there is an e-safety commissioner through whom complaints are made. If the Government did not like our wording, I would have hoped that they would have come back with something better; we might have withdrawn our wording in favour of theirs if it achieved the same measure.

We still believe that social media sites will change their behaviour only when there is the very particular threat of a statutory obligation being placed on them at a set point in time. I am sorry to say that the Minister’s response has not been sufficient on this occasion, and I would like to test the opinion of the House.

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