Labour calls for tougher online harms bill amid racist abuse of England players

Sienna Rodgers
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It’s the hope that kills you: as an England fan, or as a Labour member approaching a general election in recent years. The top story this morning is the disgusting racism being thrown at some players, particularly Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka. Boris Johnson has said those responsible should be “ashamed” while Priti Patel is “disgusted”, though of course only recently both refused to support footballers taking the knee. It was alright for fans to boo an anti-racist act, we were told – that’s just a way to “make their feelings known”, the Prime Minister’s spokesman said last month – but that same sentiment has been taken too far now apparently.

Ministers say the online harms bill would protect people from this kind of online abuse. Labour has described the legislation as “watered down”, however, and countered that it would not put a stop to such conduct. Jo Stevens is calling on the government to “urgently review” its approach and ensure that social media companies are properly incentivised to tackle the hatred that has “become endemic” on their platforms. “Social media companies’ self-regulation has to end and instead we need tough new laws,” the shadow minister said. The opposition party would strengthen the bill by including criminal sanctions for senior tech executives who repeatedly fail to enforce the rules.

The other piece of government legislation being criticised by Labour today is the higher education (freedom of speech) bill. It has been renamed as a “hate speech protection bill” by the opposition party, which is seeking to highlight that it could legally provide protection and even financial recompense to people wanting to engage in dangerous speech on university campuses, such as Holocaust denial and anti-vaccination messages. The bill, representing another government attempt to stoke a ‘culture war’, will have its second reading in the House of Commons today.

On LabourList, David Kogan – author of Protest and Power: The Battle for the Labour Party – has written about why there is a “cold chill” among Labour supporters and what lessons the leadership could learn from the past in ‘Keir Starmer’s Labour Party: where are we now?’. We reveal that Labour has warned Sajid Javid that 500,000 immunocompromised people are at risk of being forgotten as restrictions lift in England. And in case you missed it, I wrote on Friday about the Ms A v Mike Hill employment tribunal ruling, which found that the former Labour MP for Hartlepool had sexually harassed and assaulted, on multiple occasions, his staffer who says she is “extraordinarily disappointed and shocked at the lack of support from the Labour Party”. Sign up to LabourList’s morning email for everything Labour, every weekday morning.

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