YouGov Polling Shows Tory Members Hate Online Harms Bill

Covering the IEA’s new report on the free speech-attacking Online Harms Bill (OHB) this morning, Guido noted “If the government wants to get the Boris show back on the road, and reassure Tory members and MPs that this government is worth fighting for – while saving at least £2.5 billion – scrapping swathes of this big-state bill could not be a more obvious starting point.” New polling released today, coinciding with the IEA’s report, shows this was on the money…

The poll of 982 Tory Party members, conducted by YouGov on behalf of the Legal to Type, Legal to Say campaign, is crystal clear that the government is utterly barking up the wrong tree here. When asked “Do you think people should or should not be able to post content online that is legal, but that some people might find offensive or harmful?”, as the OHB aims to prevent, 79% of members said people should be able to do so.

Asked whether they believe there should be a discrepancy between what is legal to say online and offline, as Lord Frost today points out the OHB will create, again 79% say “anything that is legal to say in public should be legal to say online”. Just 17% believe “there are some things that are legal to say in person, which should not be legal to say online”.

Asked whether they trust Ofcom to be impartial, 51% of members said either not very much or not at all, versus 38% who answered a great deal or a fair amount.

Asked to rank issues relating to online safety by priority for the government, 73% agreed that illegal content such as child sexual abuse is important, followed by 58% for terrorism materials and 41% for illegal online abuse such as stalking, racial abuse and harassment. Just 3% said the government should prioritise “comments which are offensive but do not break any laws”. 

While 81% of Tory members trust Boris Johnson to care about freedom of speech, by contrast 80% do not trust social media companies – the people who will be given much greater moderating responsibilities after the OHB comes into force – to protect it. This all seems cut and dry. It will be very difficult for the PM to point to a change of thinking and strategy over the coming months if the anti-free speech provisions in the Online Harms Bill are not dropped…

mdi-tag-outline Data Guido Free Speech Online Harms Bill Polls Wonk Watch
mdi-account-multiple-outline Nadine Dorries
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