Hacked Off demand changes to Online Safety Bill’s media exemption, as Government indicates u-turn on foreign disinformation

After Hacked Off criticised the Government’s Online Safety Bill’s media exemption, which will protect publishers of hostile foreign state disinformation including Russia Today, racist, misogynistic and other abusive publishers from regulation, the Government has today announced its intention to amend that bill and a separate national security bill to address concerns around foreign state disinformation.

National newspapers have expressed support for the “media exemption” remaining as drafted, despite the concerns raised by Hacked Off, the independent press, and other campaigners.

Commenting, Hacked Off Chief Executive Nathan Sparkes said,

“The government’s policy on the Online Safety Bill and the press to date has been to protect newspapers from accountability at all costs, even if that means handing exemptions to Russia Today and various racist and extremist publishers across the web.

“Any indication that the Government are prepared to put national security and the public ahead of the narrow commercial interests of a handful of the largest newspaper publishers is to be welcomed.

“But the plans set out in the Culture Department’s press release today are light on detail and it remains unclear whether the media exemption in the Online Safety Bill will actually change.

“If not, these amendments are likely to have little effect.  Because unless the loopholes in the exemption are closed, then Russia Today and other publishers of hostile state propaganda will remain immune from regulation altogether.

“In any case, the plans published today have no answer to the loopholes in the exemption for racist and other extremist publishers.

“The Government must start to put the public first, and limit the media exemption to credible, regulated news publishers only.

ENDS

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