Scottish National Party MP Anum Qaisar-Javed has called on the government to take action over online abuse after she was racially abused on social media.
Speaking recently in the House of Commons she said: “On social media, I have been told that I should not be involved in politics because I am not a Brit, but a P***. That is of course wrong on both accounts: I am neither a Brit, nor a P***; I am a proud Scot.
“On social media, I have also been told to f*** off home. That of course does not make sense – I was born in Edinburgh. Scotland is my home. I am not unique, however, in any sense, and we saw this with the horrific racial abuse that black England players have received on social media.
“Every day, people are racially abused online because of a false narrative built on prejudice and assumptions – one that Ministers in this Government have encouraged, I am afraid to say… The House may be united against racism, but we need to see real action. What do the Government intend to do about this?”
Responding to Qaisar-Javed’s comments, the Leader of the House of commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, said action is being taken through the Online Safety Bill.
The draft bill places new duties on social media firms to remove harmful or illegal content, although the government has said firms should have safeguards to ensure freedom of speech.
Published in May 2021 the Draft Online Safety Bill imposes a “duty of care” on social media companies, and some other platforms that allow users to share and post material, to remove “harmful content.”
This can include content that is legal but still judged to be harmful, such as abuse that doesn’t reach the threshold of criminality, and posts that encourage self-harm and misinformation.
Under the bill, Ofcom will be given the power to block access to sites and fine companies which do not protect users from harmful content up to £18m, or 10% of annual global turnover, whichever is the greater.
Rees Mogg said: “May I begin by saying how appalling it is that the honourable lady has been treated in that way? Anyone who has sent her a message of that kind should, to use the Prime Minister’s words: “crawl back under the rock” from which they came. They are people who should not behave in this way.
“There is one fundamental thing that we should all know: in this country, there is a fundamental equality in every respect of every single British citizen – whether somebody who received a British passport a minute ago or somebody descended from the Picts. There is a fundamental equality, and this is so important. Every British citizen is equally honourable, justified and placed before the law in the same position as every other one. That must be fundamental to our understanding, and I think it is something the whole House agrees on.”
However, he added: “I am sorry that the honourable lady wishes to make this party political, because I really think it is not. I think the whole House is outraged by the way that she has been treated, and action is being taken. As the Prime Minister set out yesterday, he has had discussions with the social media companies to remind them of their responsibilities and of what will happen under the online safety Bill if they do not live up to their responsibilities. Regrettably, social media is a sewer and some of the most disgusting bits of life get washed through it, but it is a sewer that is in need of cleansing.”