The UK's parliamentary Communications Committee has announced a new inquiry into internet censorship. It writes:
The Committee wishes to explore how the regulation of the internet should be improved, including through better self-regulation and governance, and whether a new regulatory framework for the internet is necessary or whether the general law of
the UK is adequate. This inquiry will consider whether online platforms which mediate individuals' use of the internet have sufficient accountability and transparency, adequate governance and provide effective behavioural standards for users.
The committee is now accepting submissions from the public and those likely to be impacted by internet censorship decisions and policy,
The UK Parliament's Joint Committee on Human Rights publishes report into free speech in universities, highlighting serious concerns over barriers to free speech. The Committee has also published its own guidance for
universities and students organising events to empower them to protect and promote this vital human right.
Factors limiting free speech in universities
The Committee say that there are a number of factors which actively limit free speech in universities, including:
Intolerant attitudes, often incorrectly using the banner of "no-platforming" and "safe-space" policies
Incidents of unacceptable intimidating behaviour by protestors intent on preventing free speech and debate
Student Unions being overly cautious for fear of breaking the rules
Unnecessary bureaucracy imposed on those organising events
Fear and confusion over what the Prevent Duty entails
Unduly complicated and cautious guidance from the Charity Commission.
However, as solutions to the above concerns, MPs and Peers are recommending to students, universities and the authorities:
That an independent review of the Prevent policy is necessary to assess what impact it is having on students and free speech, after evidence the Committee took demonstrated an adverse effect on events with student faith
That the Charity Commission, which regulates student unions as registered charities, review its approach and guidance, and that its actions are proportionate and are adequately explained to student unions and don't
unnecessarily limit free speech
That the Office for Students should ensure university policies proactively secure lawful free speech and are not overly burdensome
That student societies should not stop other student societies from holding their meetings. They have the right to protest but must not seek to stop events entirely
That while there must be opportunities for genuinely sensitive discussions, and that the whole of the university cannot be a "safe space." Universities must be places where open debate can take place so that
students can develop their own opinions on unpopular, controversial or provocative ideas
Groups or individuals holding unpopular opinions which are within the law should not be shut down nor be subject to undue additional scrutiny by student unions or universities.
Members of the Committee believe that codes of practice on freedom of speech should facilitate debate, not unduly restrict it.
Freedom of speech is vital in universities
Chair of the Committee, Harriet Harman MP, said:
Freedom of speech within the law should mean just that -- and it is vital in universities.
Evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights showed that there is a problem of inhibition of free speech in universities.
While media reporting has focussed on students inhibiting free speech -- and in our report we urge universities to take action to prevent that -- free speech is also inhibited by university bureaucracy and restrictive
guidance from the Charity Commission.
We want students themselves to know their rights to free speech and that's why we've issued a guide for students today.
The Digital Policy Alliance is a cross party group of parliamentarians with associate members from industry and academia.
It has led efforts to develop a Publicly Available Specification (PAS 1296) which was published on 19 March.
Crossbench British peer Merlin Hay, the Earl of Erroll, said:
We need to make the UK a safe place to do business, he said. That's why we're producing a British PAS... that set out for the age check providers what they should do and what records they keep.
The document is expected to include a discussion on the background to age verification, set out the rules in accordance with the Digital Economy Act, and give a detailed look at the technology, with annexes on anonymity and how the system should
This PAS will sit alongside data protection and privacy rules set out in the General Data Protection Regulation and in the UK's Data Protection Bill, which is currently making its way through Parliament. Hay explained:
We can't put rules about data protection into the PAS206 That is in the Data Protection Bill, he said. So we refer to them, but we can't mandate them inside this PAS 203 but it's in there as 'you must obey the law'... [perhaps] that's been too
subtle for the organisations that have been trying to take a swing at it.
What Hay didn't mention though was that all of this 'help' for British industry would come with a hefty £ 90 + VAT price tag for a 60 page document.
Google has been warned it could be in contempt of Parliament if it fails to permanently remove a video by the banned far right group National Action .
John Bercow, the Commons Speaker, strongly criticised the tech giant after being told it had broken a promise to take down extremist material from YouTube. He suggested the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee should haul Google bosses back
before it -- or make an application to him alleging contempt of the House. That is a recourse open to her if people do not comply and do not honour their undertakings
Labour MP Yvette Cooper had protested that the National Action video remained available online, despite Google repeatedly promising it would be taken down and take steps to prevent it reappearing.
The four-and-a-half minute propaganda video at the centre of the controversy was removed within hours of his warning, but the uploader had called on viewers to preserve the footage by re-uploading it in other forms. It features a National Action
demonstration in Darlington, which took place a month before the group was banned, showing members marching through the streets with the group's black flag and performing Nazi salutes. A leader is seen using a loudhailer to claim that white
British people will become a despised and persecuted minority.
Women should be able to report wolf-whistling, catcalling and unwanted attention on public transport to the police as hate crimes, according to Grimsby's MP, Melanie Onn.
The Labour front-bench politician has secured a debate in Parliament on Wednesday, March 7, to call for misogyny to be made a hate crime. The town's MP said women should not have to put up with unwanted behaviour in public and claims that a law
change would make women more confident in reporting such behaviours.
Surely in tetchy and angry times, when so many are so 'easily offended, surely we don't want people to be given the power to cause so much harm to others for trivial reasons. EVeryone will just end up hating everyone else even more.
Over many centuries in Britain, our press has held the powerful to account and been free to report and investigate without fear or favour. These principles underpin our democracy and are integral to the freedom of our nation.
Today in a world of the Internet and clickbait, our press face critical challenges that threaten their livelihood and sustainability - with declining circulations and a changing media landscape.
Mr Speaker, it is in this context that we approach the Leveson Inquiry, which was set up seven years ago in 2011, and reported six years ago in 2012, in response to events over a decade ago.
The Leveson Inquiry was a diligent and thorough examination of the culture, practices and ethics of our press in response to illegal and improper press intrusion.
There were far too many cases of terrible behaviour and having met some of the victims, I understand the impact this had.
I want, from the start, to thank Sir Brian for his work.
The Inquiry lasted over a year and heard evidence from more than 300 people including journalists, editors and victims.
Three major police investigations examined a wide range of offences, and more than 40 people were convicted.
The Inquiry and investigations were comprehensive.
And since it was set up, the terms of reference for a Part 2 of the Inquiry have largely been met.
There have also been extensive reforms to policing practices and significant changes to press self-regulation.
IPSO has been established and now regulates 95% of national newspapers by circulation. It has taken significant steps to demonstrate its independence as a regulator.
And in 2016, Sir Joseph Pilling concluded that IPSO largely complied with Leveson's recommendations. There have been further improvements since and I hope more to come.
In November last year, IPSO introduced a new system of low-cost arbitration.
It has processed more than 40,000 complaints in its first three years of operation; and has ordered multiple front page corrections or clarifications.
Newspapers have also made improvements to their governance frameworks to improve internal controls, standards and compliance.
And one regulator, IMPRESS, has been recognised under the Royal Charter.
Extensive reforms to policing practices have been made.
The College of Policing has published a code of ethics and developed national guidance for police officers on how to engage with the press.
And reforms in the Policing and Crime Act have strengthened protections for police whistleblowers.
So it is clear that we have seen significant progress, from publications, from the police and also from the newly formed regulator.
And Mr Speaker, the media landscape today is markedly different from that which Sir Brian looked at in 2011.
The way we consume news has changed dramatically.
Newspaper circulation has fallen by around 30 per cent since the conclusion of the Leveson Inquiry.
And although digital circulation is rising, publishers are finding it much harder to generate revenue online.
In 2015, for every 100 pounds newspapers lost in print revenue they gained only 3 pounds in digital revenue.
Our local papers, in particular, are under severe pressure. Local papers help to bring together local voices and shine a light on important local issues - in communities, in courtrooms, in council chambers.
And as we devolve power further to local communities, they will become even more important.
And yet, over 200 local newspapers have closed since 2015, including two in my own constituency.
There are also new challenges, that were only in their infancy back in 2011.
We have seen the dramatic and continued rise of social media, which is largely unregulated.
And issues like clickbait, fake news, malicious disinformation and online abuse, which threaten high quality journalism.
A foundation of any successful democracy is a sound basis for democratic discourse. This is under threat from these new forces that require urgent attention.
These are today's challenges and this is where we need to focus.
Especially as over 48 million pounds was spent on the police investigations and the Inquiry.
During the consultation, 12% of direct respondents were in favour of reopening the Leveson Inquiry, with 66% against. We agree and that is the position that we set out in our Manifesto.
Sir Brian, who I thank for his service, agrees that the Inquiry should not proceed on the current terms of reference but believes that it should continue in an amended form.
We do not believe that reopening this costly and time-consuming public inquiry is the right way forward.
Considering all of the factors that I have outlined to the House today, I have informed Sir Brian that we will be formally closing the Inquiry.
But we will take action to safeguard the lifeblood of our democratic discourse, and tackle the challenges our media face today, not a decade ago.
During the consultation, we also found serious concerns that Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 would exacerbate the problems the press face rather than solve them.
Respondents were worried that it would impose further financial burdens, especially on the local press.
One high profile figure put it very clearly. He said:
'Newspapers...are already operating in a tough environment. These proposals will make it tougher and add to the risk of self-censorship'.
'The threat of having to pay both sides' costs - no matter what the challenge - would have the effect of leaving journalists questioning every report that named an individual or included the most innocuous data about them.'
He went on to say that Section 40 risks 'damaging the future of a paper that you love' and that the impact will be to 'make it much more difficult for papers...to survive'.
These are not my words Mr Speaker, but the words of Alastair Campbell talking about the chilling threat of Section 40. [political content removed]
Only 7 per cent of direct respondents favoured full commencement of Section 40. By contrast, 79 per cent favoured full repeal.
Mr Speaker, we have decided not to commence Section 40 of the Crime and Courts Act 2013 and to seek repeal at the earliest opportunity.
Action is needed. Not based on what might have been needed years ago - but action now to address today's problems.
Our new Digital Charter sets out the overarching programme of work to agree norms and rules for the online world and put them into practice.
Under the Digital Charter, our Internet Safety Strategy is looking at online behaviour and we will firmly tackle the problems of online abuse.
And our review into the sustainability of high quality journalism will address concerns about the impact of the Internet on our news and media.
It will do this in a forward looking way, so we can respond to the challenges of today, not the challenges of yesterday.
Mr Speaker, the future of a vibrant press matters to us all.
There has been a huge public response to our consultation. I would like to thank every one of the 174,000 respondents as well as all those who signed petitions.
We have carefully considered all of the evidence we received. We have consulted widely, with regulators, publications and victims of press intrusion.
The world has changed since the Leveson Inquiry was established in 2011.
Since then we have seen seismic changes to the media landscape.
The work of the Leveson Inquiry, and the reforms since, have had a huge impact on public life. We thank Sir Brian Leveson for lending his dedication and expertise to the undertaking of this Inquiry.
At national and local levels, a press that can hold the powerful to account remains an essential component of our democracy.
Britain needs high-quality journalism to thrive in the new digital world.
We seek a press - a media - that is robust, and independently regulated. That reports without fear or favour.
The steps I have set out today will help give Britain a vibrant, independent and free press that holds the powerful to account and rises to the challenges of our times.
Customs officers are to gain permission to enter and search people's homes without a warrant in a law change a minister warns would allow them more powers than the police.
Kit Malthouse, a Conservative MP who became a minister in this week's reshuffle, said he is concerned about new powers for HM Revenue and Customs in the Finance Bill which is currently going through Parliament.
The changes were an extension of the old excise men's powers to deal with smugglers in ports and airports he said, questioning whether such powers are appropriate today.
He said: I hope that Ministers will think carefully about whether it might be more appropriate for a warrant to be obtained to access someone's premises, in the same way that the police do when they have suspicions.
Theresa May has vowed to overturn a disgraceful bid by peers to muzzle the press.
The House of Lords yesterday voted to force the vast majority of papers - including the struggling local press - to pay all legal costs in data protection cases even if they win.
Peers voted by 211 votes to 200, a majority of only 11, to introduce the new legal fees costs on the media.
Critics have pointed out that it will hamper the media's ability to investigate wrongdoing and corruption as criminals could drag the press through expensive courts without having to pay a penny themselves.
The PM said:
I think that the impact of this vote would undermine high-quality journalism and a free press.
I think it would particularly have a negative impact on local newspapers, which are an important underpinning of our democracy.
I believe passionately in a free press. We want to have a free press that is able to hold politicians and others to account and we will certainly be looking to overturn this vote in the House of Commons.
The Lords also voted by 238 votes to 209 for a new probe effectively mirroring the second part of the Leveson inquiry. This also attempts to punish the press by denying them justice by making them pay regardless of the merits of the case.
New Culture Secretary Matt Hancock also weighed in against the lords saying that the proposed changes would be a hammer blow to the local press and made clear he would seek to overturn the changes in the elected House of Commons