Online Safety Bill must only be the start - The Yorkshire Post says

It is not surprising to see the momentum of Parliamentary acts stall and change amid internal debates on the issue of secruity versus freedom of speech – that one comes around often enough.

So it is the case with the Online Safety Bill, which after five years in the pipeline has been “watered down”, say critics, after Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan has announced major changes ahead of its return to the House.

The bill has been at the centre of a debate over free speech and censorship focused on the so-called “legal but harmful” duties. These would have required the biggest online platforms to ensure their users, and in particular children, are not exposed to harmful content, even if it was not illegal. In the new version, these obligations have been removed.

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Perhaps the best reminder of why such problems need to be solved, though, is the human factor.

Take the death Molly Russell, a 14-year-old from Harrow who ended her life in November 2017 after viewing suicide and self-harm content online.

Her father, Ian Russell, has told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that he thought the “most harmful content to [Molly] was content that could be described as legal but harmful”, and the Molly Rose Foundation set up in her name has responded to the bill’s changes by saying “this isn’t about freedom of speech, it’s about the freedom to live”.

We must ensure that we do our utmost to prevent tragedies like the one Molly’s family have experienced, sparing loved ones the ensuing hell of their heartbreak.

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It remains the case that so much of what we find to be sinister online would not be acceptable in the ‘real world’.

This bill should has to be the beginning of our society getting to grips with the wild west that is the world wide web – not failing at the first opportunity.