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IMA responds to Online Safety Bill

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Summary

  • The Online Safety Bill would require social media platforms to regulate themselves, with an exemption for content posted by "recognised news publishers" but it excludes many independent, regulated news publishers and allows unregulated and potentially harmful publishers to benefit from the exemption.

  • In this Bill as it stands, “news publishers” are defined by having a UK address and a team of staff or contributors. Not every indie publication will have these.

  • We want to ensure all independently regulated media, including Impress-regulated publications, are protected and have access to the exemption, and that harmful publishers do not.



Statement

The Independent Media Association (IMA), along with Hacked Off, are deeply concerned about the recognised news publisher exemption proposed in the Online Safety Bill, which is currently before the House.


The Bill, as currently drafted, would require social media platforms to regulate themselves, with an exemption for content posted to social media by “recognised news publishers”. However, the definition of a "recognised news publisher" used in the Bill would exclude many independent, regulated news publishers, while allowing unregulated and potentially harmful publishers to benefit from the exemption.


We are particularly concerned that the Government has defined "news publisher" in a way that relies on arbitrary criteria such as having a UK address (c. 50(2)(e)) and a team of staff or contributors (c. 50(2)(a)(ii)). These criteria fail to take into account the important role that independent news publishers play in providing diverse and reliable news to the public. Many independent news publishers work remotely, may be based abroad (while serving a UK audience), or are run by a single person (this is particularly often the case for hyperlocal publishers).


At the same time, the criteria as drafted are vulnerable to being exploited by outlets specialising in Kremlin-backed disinformation, openly racist blogs, anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists and many other harmful publishers.


We call on the Government - or Parliament, if the Government fails to do so - to amend these criteria to ensure that all independently regulated media, including Impress-regulated publications, are protected and have access to the exemption, and that harmful publishers do not.


This would ensure that independent, regulated news publishers are not unfairly excluded from the exemption, and would help to protect the public from misinformation, disinformation, and racially abusive content.


We strongly urge the Government to support this amendment and to ensure that the Online Safety Bill is fair and effective in protecting the public from harmful content on social media, while also protecting the freedom of the press - including the local and independent media, which is so vital to a thriving democracy.


– Tchiyiwe Thandiwe Chihana, Chairperson at the IMA

– Nathan Sparkes, Chief Executive at Hacked Off

– Jonathan Heawood, Executive Director at PINF

– Josef Davies-Coates, Director at Better Media


Newsrooms who have backed this statement:


– Steve Topple, Director of the Canary Workers Co-Op

– Sam Walby, Editor at Now Then Magazine

Monica del Pilar Uribe, Editor at The Prisma (The Multicultural Newspaper).


Further signatories may be added at a later date. Please check back regularly for updates.

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