No AE reform, but Queen’s Speech measures spark protests

The PSC has repeatedly denied that boycott campaigns are motivated by, or increase the prevalence of, anti-semitism.

PSC director Ben Jamal said: “Though the government has been threatening this legislation for several years, it is no less outrageous to see such an anti-democratic bill presented in one of the oldest seats of democracy.

“Boycotting is a legitimate, historically recognised tactic and the right to employ it is a core democratic right.”

He promised to fight the bill, saying: “Our first act will be taking to the streets of London this Saturday [...] to protect our right to boycott.” 

Online safety provisions welcomed

Despite significant public concern about its impacts on free speech, the government’s online safety bill was at least welcomed by those in the industry who have long demanded that more be done to tackle online fraud, fake adverts and unlicensed financial promotions.

MPs and industry experts had warned for some time that the existing law imposed too few obligations on social media companies and other online platforms to protect users from fake and fraudulent content, especially pension scams.

Though the private sector did make some concessions after engagement with the Financial Conduct Authority, there were calls for the online safety bill to go further, with consumer group Which? demanding that it include paid-for advertisements in a bid to tackle the rising number of scams, and which has now been done.

Significantly, the bill designates Ofcom as the independent online safety regulator, equipping it with “robust enforcement powers”, according to the Queen’s Speech. 

These include the ability to level fines of up to £18mn or 10 per cent of qualifying annual turnover, as well as “business disruption measures” and the placing of criminal liability on the managers of tech companies for non-compliance.

Yvonne Collins, head of financial crime prevention at Phoenix Group, said: “We have been calling for this throughout the consultation as we believe it is urgently needed to protect society, with unlicensed financial promotions and fake ads targeting the most vulnerable, and we welcome its passing. It was crucial that the measures to crack down on fraudulent online advertising were not watered down.”

She added: “We urge people to remain vigilant of any offers of unrealistically high financial returns or free pension reviews which are often too good to be true. Taking the time to check that a website is secure before sharing personal details, inspecting the URL, or simply asking whether a deal sounds realistic could stop you being scammed.”