Sunday shows: Labour calls for censorship laws to fight anti-vax content

Ridge on Sunday

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth battled the wind and rain to appear on the show this morning. He discussed Labour’s call for the government to introduce penalties to prevent the spread of anti-vax conspiracy theories.

  • On a vaccine: “A vaccine is a great hope for the coming months but we know the World Health Organisation has warned of vaccine hesitancy so I think the government needs to do three things.”
  • On public health messaging: “Have strong public health messaging. People will have legitimate questions about the health vaccine – strong public health messaging should allay those fears.”
  • He added: “Secondly, mobilise our NHS and our public health infrastructure and resource them properly to get the vaccine out quickly, but thirdly deal with some of the dangerous, nonsensical anti-vax stuff.”
  • On anti-vax disinformation: “We’re calling on the government, we’re asking the government that we will work with you on a cross-party basis to put in place measures to deal with that anti-vax nonsense.”
  • On his message to government: “You’ve talked about an online harms bill, you’ve talked about holding social media platforms responsible – we will work with you on a cross-party basis to get that legislation on the statute book.”
  • On who would be fined: “It would be the platforms because their business models are based on the sharing of incendiary comments so they will have mechanisms to deal with this – and they have begun to deal with it.”
  • Asked whether use of a coronavirus vaccine should be made compulsory in the UK: “No, I don’t think so.”
  • On prioritising distribution: “The committee of clinicians who make these decisions have suggested that we vaccinate the elderly and the vulnerable in care homes and health care workers – I think that’s the right priority.”
  • He added: “I would hope that committee also looks at the impact on those from ethnic minority communities because we know that this virus has had a disproportionate impact on those from ethnic minority communities.”

Minister George Eustice told viewers this morning that the government would be seeking to reintroduce measures in the internal market bill, removed by House of Lords amendments, that break international law.

On Brexit and the need to secure a deal with the EU, the Environment Secretary said that “you can always squeeze out extra time” but added: “This needs to be a week when things move, when we breakthrough some of these difficult issues.”

Asked whether the UK is going to blow up the possibility of a Brexit deal over fishing, he said: “There’s an important principle here as well, which is the right and the ability to manage and control access to your exclusive economic zone.”

The Andrew Marr Show

Shadow Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Secretary Jo Stevens discussed her party’s proposals for legislation to “combat the tsunami of anti-vax disinformation” with criminal and financial penalties for social media companies.

  • On the plan: “We are calling on the government to this morning to introduce urgent legislation to combat the tsunami of anti-vax disinformation that is online and is harmful.”
  • On the legislation: “What we want the government to do, is bring forward legislation that will put an onus on social media companies to be able to identify dangerous anti-vax content, to stop it going onto their platforms.”
  • She added: “If they don’t stop it going onto their platforms, to have systems in place to remove it once it’s on there as quickly as possible.”
  • On what happens with noncompliance: “Proper sanctions that are financial penalties that are meaningful in terms of the size of these huge global companies but also criminal penalties if there are aggravated and persistent breaches.”
  • On talks the government has had with social media companies on self-regulation: “We know, and the social media companies themselves have admitted, that self-regulation doesn’t work.”
  • On online harms laws: “The government promised over 18 months ago to bring forward legislation on online harms, which they failed to do so. And the latest indication that we have is that the legislation may not be in place until 2024.”
  • On whether Labour is proposing criminalising people with doubts about the vaccine: “The criminalising aspect is simply about aggravated failure to abide by legislation once introduced on senior executives of social media companies.
  • She added: “This is not about criminalising individual members of the public.”
  • On social media companies: “We’re calling for legislation to put the onus on social media companies. We know already that they can remove content – they do it already in terms of illegal content.”

Former Labour Prime Minister Gordon Brown made the case for a constitutional review in response to both Downing Street infighting and the question of independence in Scotland.

  • On Tory infighting and recent controversy surrounding Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain: “I see no end to this factional fighting.”
  • He added: “You’ve got a soft-Brexit faction, a hard-Brexit faction, a libertarian faction in relation to health restrictions, a communitarian faction, a northern faction wanting spending rises, a southern faction wanting spending cuts, you’ve got a devolution and centralisation faction.”
  • On Downing Street: “This is not simply a problem of a dysfunctional Downing Street – this is a dysfunctional UK. It really will need a wholesale root and branch constitutional review.”
  • On a Brexit deal and the US election: “The arrival of Joe Biden has made all the difference. I see a tree deal coming pretty soon. The government can’t afford to be at war with America on the one hand and Europe at the other.”
  • On Scottish independence: “There’s got to be a time to heal before you go into any divisive, conflicting referendum that really will cause consternation in Scotland for months to come… I don’t think this is the right time at all.”
  • On the constitutional debate: “It’s between independence, one form of change I don’t like, and the change that has really got to take place in the UK to bring us up to date.”
  • On the relationship between Whitehall and the devolved nations: “You cannot continue with the centralist, unitary, man-in-Whitehall-knows-best formulas that we’ve used too often in the past.”
  • On a Covid recovery: “The only way forward is getting back to growth… Of course it’s a lot cheaper, because interest rates are virtually nil, to pay off your deficit and debt. But you cannot allow unemployment to rise on the altar of a new policy of austerity.”

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