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The government has tabled an amendment to the online safety bill that would prevent digital platforms from taking down news content without an appeal process.

The online safety bill is a proposed law that would, among other things, give UK regulators the power to force social media firms to take down content that is perceived to be harmful.

However, the secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport (DCMS) Nadine Dorries said extra protection would be given to journalistic content.

Democracy “depends on people’s access to high-quality journalism”, Dorries said earlier this week.

“We’ve seen tech firms arbitrarily remove legitimate journalism with a complete lack of transparency and this could seriously impact public discourse. These extra protections will stop that from happening.”

Prior to the amendment, concerns were raised that the online safety bill would be harmful to free speech by encouraging online platforms to remove any content that could be considered controversial, regardless of its importance.

The News Media Association, a representative body for the news industry, supported the amendments, describing them as “essential to protect media freedom”.

NMA’s director of legal, Sayra Tekin said the amendments would “safeguard consumer access to accurate, timely and trusted news and information online.”

Tekin added: “By ensuring that recognised news publisher content cannot be arbitrarily removed by platforms, the online safety bill will help tackle the flood of mis- and disinformation online.”

The online safety bill has proven controversial since it was first introduced into parliament in March this year. It has faced criticism for being too broad and because it could result in unintended consequences.

Its future faces fresh uncertainty following the resignation of Prime Minister Boris Johnson after more than 50 MPs quit his government. It has prompted concerns that policy and legislation will be delayed while a new Conservative party leader is chosen, or that some policies may be scrapped altogether under a new government.


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