Politics

Boris Johnson told to end delay to social media abuse crackdown after Amess killing


MPs are urging Boris Johnson to end the long delay to a crackdown on social media abuse after the killing of David Amess and the “toxic environment” laid bare.

An Online Harms Bill – to hit tech companies failing to remove illegal and harmful content with huge fines – was promised as long ago as 2019, but there is still no date for it to be launched.

During tributes to the slain Southend MP, fellow Conservative Mark Francois said the legislation must now be put “onto the statute book” – and proposed that it be called ‘David’s law’.

Earlier, Commons Speaker Lindsay Hoyle made the same criticism – as he revealed a car bomb threat – saying: “If it was up to me and I was in charge of legislation, I would have done something,”

In the Commons, Mr Francois said his friend had become “increasingly concerned about what he called the toxic environment in which MPs, particularly female MPs were having to operate in”.

“He was appalled by what he called the vile misogynistic abuse which female MPs had to endure online and he told me very recently that he wanted something done about it,” he said of Sir David.

“I suggest that, if we want to ensure that our colleague didn’t die in vain, we collectively all of us pick up the baton, regardless of our party and take the forthcoming Online Harms Bill and toughen it up markedly.

“So let’s put, if I may be so presumptuous, David’s law onto the statute book – the essence of which would be that, while people in public life must remain open to legitimate criticism, they can no longer be vilified or their families subject to the most horrendous abuse, especially from people who hide behind a cloak of anonymity with the connivance of the social media companies for profit.”

After the abuse of England footballers at Euro 2020, then-culture secretary Oliver Dowden said the new laws would be introduced by the end of December.

But his replacement by Nadine Dorries, in last month’s cabinet reshuffle, has sparked concerns that there will be a further delay.

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