English Football key stakeholders pressure Government over Online Harms Bill
The Government will come under pressure from English football’s key stakeholders to ensure that no delays in finally introducing the Online Harms Bill are created by the recent Cabinet reshuffle.
The game’s leading organisations are growing increasingly resigned to the prospect of the new legislation — which aims to tackle the worrying issue of online abuse — being put back, despite the original plan to launch the bill by the end of 2021.
There are fears inside football that the new laws will not be enforceable until the latter part of 2022 — a prospect that will cause major consternation given the trend of sickening abuse on social media.
Players are receiving discriminatory messages on their social channels on a daily basis. England trio Bukayo Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho were all targeted for disgusting racial taunts online after penalty misses in the Euro 2020 final shoot-out defeat by Italy.
English football’s most powerful bodies have been fighting to ensure the new legislation is robust enough to challenge the issue adequately, while there has also been a concerted effort to guarantee the bill is passed through Parliament as a matter of urgency.
But there are concerns that last week’s changes to the cabinet will cause a lag.
Former Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden previously said the new laws — that could see social media companies such as Twitter and Instagram fined tens of millions of pounds for failing to tackle online abuse vigorously — would be introduced by the end of December.
Dowden was last week replaced by Nadine Dorries, sparking concerns that changes will lead to delays.
English football’s joint committee, made up of the Football Association, the Premier League and Kick it Out, will put forward recommendations to improve the current draft by mid-December.
Former England defender Rio Ferdinand last week told a joint parliamentary committee: ‘I have to sit there with my kids and explain what the monkey emoji means.
‘When there are no repercussions, there is nothing done to expose that person, then people are going to think it’s normal.’