Labor accused the government of backing down on its promise to get the first phase of the online safety law through municipalities this year.
The bill aims to tackle malicious content online such as revenge porn, hate speech and child abuse.
Asked by the prime minister on Wednesday, Boris Johnson promised lawmakers a debate on the matter before Christmas.
But on Thursday, council leader Jacob Rees-Mogg couldn’t say when the debate will take place.
Labor’s shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said: “It seems our relief that Boris Johnson finally understood the urgency of the online safety bill yesterday (Wednesday) was premature.
“Not only have the Conservatives reversed their pledge to bring the bill’s second reading to parliament before Christmas, but this also raises doubts that the prime minister’s promise to introduce criminal sanctions will also be quietly shelved.”
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The online safety bill is currently under consideration by a committee of lawmakers and colleagues.
Pressed by Labor for a date for the first debate on the bill in the House of Commons – known as the second reading – Rees-Mogg told lawmakers that the bill was already “available for all to watch and consider.”
He said the committee “will present its wise views” in December, but will not commit to a second reading.
Labor said the bill was “years late” and urged the prime minister to “keep his promise”.
But Conservative Congressman Julian Knight – chairman of the Commons’ Culture Committee – warned against the bill being passed without proper scrutiny, adding that Johnson’s announced schedule was “unworkable.”
The proposed new law includes large fines for social media companies like Facebook and Twitter if they fail to crack down on extremist content and there is an option for further laws to prosecute the company’s directors.
On Wednesday, Sir Keir Starmer called for the threat of “criminal sanctions” against leaders to be included in the bill.
Johnson replied that the bill would include criminal penalties for those who allow “repulsive content,” but did not confirm whether that would include the company’s directors.
Meanwhile, freedom of speech activists Big Brother Watch described the bill as “one of the most dangerous free speech pieces of legislation in recent years” and “a danger to democracy”.
- Online safety bill
- Jacob Rees-Mogg
- Keir Starmer
- Boris Johnson
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