LONDON — The U.K.’s flagship Online Safety Bill will be brought before MPs before Christmas, Boris Johnson said Wednesday.
The U.K. prime minister said the flagship piece of legislation, which would see social media platforms and search engines issued with large fines for not doing enough to protect users from harmful content, will have its second reading before MPs go on their Christmas break.
The announcement marks a significant acceleration of the bill, which ministers are yet to finalize. A cross-party committee of MPs and peers who are scrutinizing the legislation are only required to report back on their findings by December 10, leaving ministers little time to make substantive changes based on their recommendations.
Johnson was responding in the House of Commons chamber to a challenge to hit an end of year deadline for a second reading by Labour leader Keir Starmer, who said he wanted to use the collaborative spirit shown following the killing of Tory MP David Amess to make progress on the new law.
“It’s three years since the government promised an online safety bill, but it’s not yet before the House,” Starmer said at the weekly prime minister’s question session in the House of Commons.
Johnson said the bill was “one of the most important tools in our armory” and promised to “look at ways in which we can toughen up those provisions and to come down hard on those who irresponsibly allow dangerous and extremist content to permeate the internet.”
Johnson said there would be “criminal sanctions with tough sentences for those who are responsible for allowing this vile content to permeate the internet” — a provision the opposition Labour Party has been calling for in the bill.
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