The former Brexit Minister Lord Frost has urged Boris Johnson to overhaul the Online Safety Bill as one of his top priorities.
Writing in The Daily Telegraph, Lord Frost outlined the Bill as one of three key issues which “must be dealt with now”.
He called on the Prime Minister to “bring forward only the uncontroversial elements, and don’t kill free speech and our tech industry with the rest”.
The Bill will incentivise social media companies and search engines to restrict content which is ‘legal but harmful’ to adults and will empower Government ministers to decide what this covers.
The Christian Institute is among those warning that the concept of ‘harmful’ is open to misuse. This will eventually be laid out in secondary legislation, but the Secretary of State for Culture will be able to amend it with little parliamentary scrutiny.
It has also raised fears that because tech companies could be fined up to ten per cent of their annual global turnover if they fail to uphold their new duties, they are likely to censor far more than necessary.
Concerns over the Bill have already prompted Lord Hunt of Kings Heath to accuse the Government of “legitimising the major tech companies to impose their values on us even more”.
Last month, several senior columnists warned that the Government is in danger of strengthening the hand of ‘Big Tech’ censors through its Online Safety Bill.
James Forsyth, political editor for The Spectator, fears the Bill will create a “dragnet” filtering out free speech for years, while veteran journalist Melanie Phillips predicts the rise of an online thought police to censor free expression.
In an editorial, The Times said the legislation posed a threat to “citizens’ speech” by giving technology companies licence to manage online content.