Online Safety Bill

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Publication.png Online Safety Bill 
(law,  internet censorship,  COVID-19/Legislation,  Hate)Rdf-entity.pngRdf-icon.png
Nadine Dorries.jpg
Proposed piece of landmark legislation which will enable internet censorship in Great Britain

The "Online Safety Bill" is currently going through the UK/Parliament. It will make online trolling a crime and combat "extremism" and "misinformation".[1]

New offences will include "sending genuinely threatening" or "knowingly false" messages.[2] According to Demos, the bill does not go far enough.[3]

The draft bill can be found here:[4]

After Rishi Sunak became Prime Minister, he announced the amendment of the widely-criticised “legal but harmful” clause.[5] New culture secretary Michelle Donelan has been tasked with the redrafting.


Secretary Nadine Dorries made a cringeworthy rap video in May 2022 to promote the bill.

The bill is meant to criminalise trolls and "online hate speech". It has been argued by ministers that the bill will protect children and preserve freedom of expression[6] but the short title of the bill suggests otherwise.[7] She is being encouraged to make the bill more broad by the Labour Party.[8] A Counter-terrorism angle has also been used to promote the bill. Keir Starmer wants trolls who commit "online hate crime and hate speech" to be targeted in the legislation.[9]

Key points

  • Ofcom will have the legal authority to block access to particular user-to-user services or search engines[10]
  • Algorithms unaltered will result in criminal fines; ie algorithms that don't automatically flag up "harmful content"[11]
  • The government is finding it difficult to define "online harm"
  • Age verification for online pornography
  • Significant ramifications for whistleblowers: an understated consequence

New offences

On 14 December 2021, BBC News reported the new proposed offences to be created.[12]

  • Promoting or "stirring up" violence against women, or based on gender or disability
  • Knowingly distributing seriously harmful misinformation
  • Content "promoting self-harm" should be made illegal
  • "Cyber-flashing" - the sending of unwanted naked images - should be illegal
  • So should deliberately sending flashing images to those with epilepsy, with the goal of causing a seizure


The Center for Countering Digital Hate supports the bill. UK/Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries says "online hate has poisoned public life, it's intolerable, it's often unbearable and it has to end. Enough is enough. Social media companies have no excuses. And once this bill passes through Parliament, they will have no choice". Twitter says that the bill needs "far more clarity".[13]

Committee hearings

Footballer Anton Ferdinand appeared before committee and said social media companies need to take action over racist abuse before a high-profile footballer commits suicide because of online persecution.[14]


The report from the joint committee detailing recommendations for the bill is expected the week beginning 6 December 2021.[15]


A threat to journalism. It is meant to protect Members of Parliament from online hate speech, AKA legitimate critisism. The death of David Amess is being used to justify the bill.

Former Brexit Secretary David Davis described the law as a "censor's charter". "You can be sure that in any area of controversy – political issues, culture wars, or even COVID science – there will be plenty of people complaining and demanding a post be taken down. "And with Silicon Valley mega corporations as arbiters of the truth, anything that appears online and can be characterised by someone as misinformation could be censored. "The chilling effect on free speech will be terrible," he added.[16]

Former MP Ruth Smeeth and head of Index on Censorship does not support banning online anonymity. She said, "We have to do something to tackle and improve our online culture but a knee-jerk response to ban anonymous accounts will have unintended consequences - not just on our collective free speech but on our ability to engage with whistle blowers and dissidents in every corner of the world."[17]


Related Documents

TitleTypePublication dateAuthor(s)Description
Document:Nadine Dorries resignation letterLetter27 August 2023Nadine DorriesNadine Dorries has resigned from her Commons seat with a scathing attack on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. The Mid Bedfordshire MP's full resignation letter is below in full...
Document:Someone said they wanted to see me trapped in a burning car and watch flames melt my fleshArticle22 October 2021Nadine DorriesAfter the murder of MP David Amess, a crackdown on "internet trolls" is being demanded by most politicians. The UK's new Culture Minister Nadine Dorries is pursuing new overreaching legislation regulating Big Tech. The "Online Safety Bill" will abolish online anonymity and empower internet censorship. There are fears that it will be the end for freedom of expression in the UK.
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  1. "Online safety bill ‘a recipe for censorship’, say campaigners"