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Government pauses Online Safety Bill’s progress

The government has paused the Online Safety Bill’s journey towards becoming law, amid timetable pressure

A vote to make the Online Safety Bill law will be delayed as the government pauses the legislation’s passage through parliament until the autumn, when a new prime minister will be in place.

Parliament will soon enter summer recess and timetable pressure means the Bill will not be discussed at its next stage until after the summer break, according to a BBC report, quoting a government source.

Introduced in March and currently at its report stage in Parliament, the Online Safety Bill sets out rules about how online platforms should behave to protect their users better. It will introduce criminal sanctions for tech company executives and senior managers, alongside further criminal offences.

Andy Burrows, head of child safety online policy at the NSPCC, said: “The Online Safety Bill is a crucial piece of legislation that is fundamentally about protecting children from harm and abuse that is taking place on an industrial scale on social media. 

“Any delay will mean families continue to pay the price for the failure and inaction of tech firms that have allowed harm to fester rather than get their house in order.

“Online regulation is therefore vital to force their hand and delivering this legislation should be a cornerstone of any government’s duty to keep the most vulnerable in our society safe.”

According to a BBC report, a government source blamed Labour for the delay, with parliamentary time reduced because of the Labour Party’s demand for a formal vote of no confidence in the government and the prime minister.

But the vote of no confidence was rejected by the government, which went on to call a confidence vote in itself, rather than the government and prime minister. According to PoliticsHome, the Online Safety Bill was removed to make space for this.

Lucy Powell MP, Labour’s shadow culture secretary, said: “This is a devastating blow."

“It’s been five years in the making, coming from civil society and children’s charities with cross-party support, improved and scrutinised in draft form, and undergone weeks of amendments and improvements in committee."

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