A clampdown on online extremism with criminal sentences for platforms that host hate material is to be rushed through the Commons by Christmas.
There was cross-party agreement at a subdued Prime Minister’s Questions as MPs questioned Boris Johnson in the chamber for the first time since the killing of David Amess last Friday.
Labour leader Keir Starmer started his questions in a “collegiate spirit”, saying he “listened hard to what was being said on the opposition benches on Monday about the concerns about this issue”.
But Starmer had to slap down the Tory leader who could not resist an attack line, despite the circumstances, as he accused Labour of opposing legislation to block the early release of terrorist offenders from prison.
Starmer responded: “Really? After the week we’ve just had I really don’t want to descend to the kind of knockabout.”
The Labour leader called for the Online Harms Bill, clamping down on content inciting violence, to be brought forward immediately with tough sanctions for social media firms that host the material.
Starmer said: “We do need to recognise the measures in the Bill but we do need tough and effective sanctions, and that means criminal sanctions. That does matter, it is frankly beyond belief that as the Mirror reported yesterday 40 hours of hateful content from Anjem Choudary could be easily accessed online.
“The Prime Minister and the Government could stop this by making it clear that directors of companies are criminally liable for failing to tackle this type of material on their sites. We don’t need to delay.”
The Prime Minister accepted Labour’s show of support and confirmed the bill will include criminal sanctions for those who are allowing “this foul content”.
Johnson said: “I’ve already said that we are willing to look at anything to strengthen the legislation, I’ve said that we will bring it forward to Second Reading before Christmas.
“And, yes, of course we will have criminal sanctions with tough sentences for those who are responsible for allowing this foul content to permeate the internet.”
“What we hope for also, is that no matter how tough the proposals we produce, that the opposition will support it.”
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