On the 20th March 2017, the House of Lords debated a Government amendment to the Digital Economy Bill at its Report Stage, on access to online pornography. Original Government proposals were that the threshold of censorship and prohibition should be as consistent as possible for material distributed online and offline. In a new amendment the Government offered a revised approach, with a higher threshold for prohibiting material online alongside a focus on age verification measures. The Bishop of Leeds, the Rt Revd Nick Baines, and the Bishop of Chester, the Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke against the amendment, arguing to keep the original approach. The amendment was however agreed without a vote. The Bishops’ speeches are below, with an extract of the Minister’s reply. The full text of the debate on the amendments can be read in Hansard, here.
Lord Bishop of Leeds: My Lords, it seems odd in a society such as ours that we are even thinking about how to give access to violent pornography or trying to mitigate it in some way. It seems clear to me is that most of us sitting in this House probably have less idea of how online digital communications work than a five year-old. Children—my grandchildren’s generation—are very adept and almost intuit how to do this stuff. Continue reading
On 13th March 2017 several votes took place on amendments to the Government’s Digital Economy Bill. The Bishop of Leeds took part in two of the divisions.
House of Lords Division Lobby
Baroness Butler-Sloss moved amendment 25YD, after clause 22, to insert the new clause “Extreme pornographic material: review and repeal”.
Contents: 46| Not Contents: 176| Result: Government Win
The Bishop of Leeds voted Content.
On 22nd February 2017, several bishops took part in three votes on the Government’s Digital Economy Bill. Continue reading
On 8th February 2017 the Bishop of Chester, Rt Revd Peter Forster, spoke during a debate on an amendment by Lord Lucas to the Government’s Digital Economy Bill. The amendment was that Ofcom be granted powers to ‘carry out and publish evaluations of algorithms’.
The Lord Bishop of Chester: My Lords, this is an important amendment because it touches upon the bigger issue of the impact of artificial intelligence on all sorts of aspects of our lives. There is a law called Moore’s law, which says that every two years the power of computers doubles. That has been true over the past 20 or 30 years and we should assume that that power will continue to develop. Artificial intelligence in all its impacting forms will be more and more prevalent in our society and more and more potent in the hands of terrorists in the years to come.
On 13th December 2016 the Government’s Digital Economy Bill was debated at its Second Reading in the House of Lords. The Bishop of Chester, the Rt Rev’d Peter Forster, contributed to the debate, focusing on issues in Part 3 of the Bill relating to online pornography and social media.