Dinsmore: Online Safety Bill Journalistic Exemption Must Be Strengthened

The exemption for journalism in the Online Safety Bill must be strengthened to protect UK journalism from overzealous moderation by American tech platforms who do not understand UK press regulation, David Dinsmore has said.

In a speech to the Media All Party Parliamentary Group reception this week, News UK chief operating officer Mr Dinsmore said the appetite for trusted news and information during the coronavirus pandemic had seen audiences soar for the sector.

But the industry faced challenges such as the systemic imbalance in the digital advertising marketplace which required remedy through competition law reform to give the Digital Markets Unit the powers it needs to correct these issues.  

Publishers had seen their content blocked, or services removed by platforms who had taken an “overzealous approach to content moderation,” Mr Dinsmore told Parliamentarians at the event on Tuesday. 

“Decisions often taken by those in the West Coast, with a West Coast view of the world – and a distinct lack of understanding of UK media, how we are run and how we are regulated,” he said.

“We are determined, given the clear democratic importance of journalism, and the potential threat to it, that the Government will strengthen the publisher exemption on the face of the Online Safety Bill. 

“We must protect news publishers and broadcasters from censorship under the regime and not fall foul of unintended consequences.”

Mr Dinsmore spoke about the changes to the media landscape brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and the vital importance of news media and trusted journalism.

“We educated people on what they could do to limit the spread of the virus. Times journalists were reporting on this virus as early as the 6th of January, and news publishers together delivered the Government’s ‘All In, All Together’ public health campaign with tremendous success.

“No other medium could have got to so many people in such an agile fashion with such a high level of trust,” he said.

News media had entertained and inspired people to be community minded and to support one another with The Sun’s Jab’s Army campaign recruiting 50,000 volunteers to support the vaccine roll out, he said.

“We saw huge growth in the numbers of people coming to our websites, seeking out reputable and trusted sources of news and analysis at a time where mis and disinformation was being spread online at pace.”

But, amidst the growth in digital audiences, there had been challenges for the sector. 

“There are systemic issues in the digital advertising market which we are hopeful will be remedied once the Digital Markets Unit gets its powers.  We look forward to seeing the legislation soon,” he said.

The problem of keyword blocking on terms related to the pandemic was being addressed thanks to industry collaboration and education, with brands becoming more enlightened on the issue.

But, he added, despite the challenges there was much to celebrate as the industry had innovated, to the benefit of the consumer who can now access news brands across multiple channels.