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Welby presses for action on incitement to hatred

24 July 2020

The Archbishop of Canterbury in Lambeth Palace, earlier this month

The Archbishop of Canterbury in Lambeth Palace, earlier this month

THE Archbishop of Canterbury has asked the Government what it is doing to prevent the use of social-media platforms to incite hatred.

During a virtual sitting of the House of Lords, on Thursday of last week, the Archbishop asked a follow-up question to Lord Holmes of Richmond, who had asked the Government “What assessment they have made of the impact of digital platforms on the functioning of democracy”.

The Archbishop said: “The minister will be aware that, although social media has immense power for good, some social-media platforms are used to incite hatred, stirring up social disruption and even extreme violence in some parts of the world. . . What steps are Her Majesty’s Government looking at to motivate and encourage responsibility to be taken by such platforms to prevent their use in everything from hate speech to genocide?”

The Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, Baroness Barran, replied that the Government would set out its plans in response to a consultation on the matter, and in upcoming legislation (the Online Harms Bill). “However, we anticipate that the international aspects will require intensive international collaboration to be effective.”

Archbishop Welby said last year that social media gave a “voice to the voiceless”, but that their lack of accountability encouraged “vicious” behaviour (News, 15 May 2019).

On Thursday of last week, the Bishop of Bristol, the Rt Revd Vivienne Faull, asked a question that she had tabled in the Lords about modern slavery and agricultural workers. She referred to the Farm Work Welfare app, developed by he Clewer Initiative, the Church’s scheme for combating modern slavery (News, 17 July, Comment, 3 July), which was intended, she said, “to help agricultural workers and their employers understand their rights and responsibilities”.

She continued: “In the light of current travel restrictions across the world, what assessment has the minister made of the impact that the Government’s proposed points-based immigration system will have on seasonal agricultural workers? Will the Government give the sector advance warning of any changes, following the review of the pilot later this year?”

Baroness Williams of Trafford, responding for the Government, said that she did not think that the points-based system would affect agricultural workers, “but we should always be on guard against people who might exploit those vulnerable to it.”

Bishop Faull said last Friday that she was concerned that, “while the new app from the Clewer initiative will be very helpful both for farm owners and workers, agricultural workers remain extremely vulnerable, and we don’t yet fully understand the impact that the new points-based immigration system will have.”

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