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12 February 2020

NMA Statement On The Government’s Initial Response To The Online Harms Consultation

The News Media Association said: “The Government’s response suggests that safeguards will be built into the legislation to protect the role of a free press. It acknowledges the widespread freedom of expression concerns raised by the white paper and views of the NMA and other press freedom and media organisations that journalistic content should not be put in scope, to protect freedom of expression and in accordance with established convention of press regulation.

“The NMA notes that the government intends to specify the services which fall within the scope of the new regime.

“Both the current Culture Secretary and her predecessor have given clear and unequivocal assurances that journalistic content will not fall within the scope of the new regime, which is designed to crack down on online harms propagated by the tech giants.

“We expect therefore that the next steps for the Government will include making an explicit exemption on the face of any legislation for news media publishers and their journalism which underpins our democracy.”

Note:

Publishers already have systems in place to address user generated content concerns, backed up by transparent industry wide standards and enforced by an industry-wide regulator, commended by Government. In exempting news publishers, the Government would simply recognise the well-established systems that publishers in membership of the NMA already have in place to address user generated content on their sites, as well as the content generated by their journalists and other contributors.

In its original submission to the Online Harms White Paper consultation, the NMA called for a complete exemption to be written into the legislation in order to fulfil the government’s assurances. Otherwise publishers would be placed in “double jeopardy of censorship and sanction” as both user generated content on their own websites and journalistic content distributed via the social networks would be directly impacted.