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  • David Babbs

A breakdown of election manifesto promises on laws to stop online harms

The UK’s main political parties have now published their 2019 General Election manifestos. All of them have included some form of commitment to legislation aimed at regulation of tech platforms.


As you’d expect, different parties have different emphases and outline different legislative approaches. None of them are perfect. And, obviously, manifesto promises can be broken.


Whichever party wins, there'll be a huge job for Clean up the Internet, working with others, to ensure that promises are kept, and to ensure the detail is got right so that legislation includes rigorous, evidence-bases measures to improve the quality of online discourse.


But nonetheless, this is still encouraging. Whatever the outcome of the election, an overwhelming majority of the UK's MPs will have been elected on a platform which included an acknowledgement that the current laissez-faire regime is not fit for purpose.


Here’s a quick breakdown of what the different manifestos say:


The Conservative Party manifesto:

"We will legislate to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online – protecting children from online abuse and harms, protecting the most vulnerable from accessing harmful content, and ensuring there is no safe space for terrorists to hide online – but at the same time defending freedom of expression and in particular recognising and defending the invaluable role of a free press."

The Labour Party manifesto:

"We will enforce a legal duty of care to protect our children online, impose fines on companies that fail on online abuse and empower the public with a Charter of Digital Rights." (p52)

The Scottish National Party manifesto:

"New standards and measures to be put in place so social media, gaming and technology organisations protect their users fully including having a statutory duty of care and mandatory obligations to tackle unsuitable content that can lead to self-harm and suicide, sexual exploitation, grooming, abuse and extremism:
-Appointment of a new independent Online Regulator with the ability to take action such as imposing heavy fines and blocking access to sites.
-Age verification for sites that are not suitable for children or have lower age limits, like the existing rules for films.
-A duty on the UK Government to provide free and up-to-date expert resources to help protect people and support learning about online harm and abusive behaviour and how to report it. It would also provide support for parents to keep their children safe – from learning about what social media platforms do through to parental controls and learning how to chat to children about online safety and privacy.
-Regular awareness campaigns to highlight these resources.
-A levy on technology companies to fully fund the regulator and associated resources. (p28)

The Liberal Democrats manifesto:

"-Create a new Online Crime Agency to effectively tackle illegal content and activity online, such as personal fraud, revenge porn and threats and incitement to violence on social media" (p69)
-Introduce a Leveson-compliant regulator to be given oversight of both privacy and quality, diversity and choice in both print and online media and proceed with Part Two of the Leveson Inquiry. (p82)
-Work towards radical real-time transparency for political advertising, donations and spending, including an easily-searchable public database of all online political adverts.(p83)
-Make algorithms used by the data companies available for close inspection by regulators acting for democratically elected governments, along with access for regulators to the programmers responsible for designing and operating them.(under ""High Quality Public Debate", p83)

The Green Party manifesto:

- Introduce a Digital Bill of Rights that establishes the UK as a leading voice on standards for the rule of law and democracy in digital spaces and ensure independent regulation of social media providers. This legislation will safeguard elections by responding to the challenges of foreign interference, social media and declining confidence in democracy. (p36)
- Introduce a regulatory framework for online harms to ensure social media companies take responsibility for how their platforms are being used and invest in technological solutions to address misogyny and online harassment (p62)

The Plaid Cymru manifesto:

"We will also introduce an online harms regulator with the power to require social media providers to ensure that animal cruelty content is not shared on their platforms. (p71)

Have we missed something? Please let us know and we'll correct it.