Warnings over impact of Online Safety Bill on free speech of Christians

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The Online Safety Bill now before Parliament will make social media companies "even more intolerant of some orthodox Christian beliefs", journalist Toby Young has warned.

In an interview with Christian Today, Young, who is General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, said: "I fear the obligation the Online Safety Bill will impose on social media companies to remove 'legal but harmful' content will make those platforms even more intolerant of some orthodox Christian beliefs – such as the belief that sex is immutable.

"That belief isn't 'harmful', of course, but trans rights activists will claim that anyone expressing that belief is 'harming' them and such objections are likely to be taken seriously," he said.

In his interview, Young also said that "the censorious attitude" behind the cancel culture "now extends to the Church of England".

Young cited the row over a tweet from Rev Jamie Franklin in November last year in which he experienced a backlash for suggesting people have as many children as possible.

Commenting on the row, Young said, "A CofE curate recently replied to a tweet from a green lobby group that was urging people not to have children because – apparently – it's bad for the environment.

"He urged everyone to have as many children as possible and quoted the familiar Biblical passage about God urging man to go forth and multiply

"A group of predominantly female CofE vicars then attacked him en masse, with one primary school teacher even suggesting he should be killed for uttering such heresy. He was then the subject of multiple complaints to the central church.

"It seems that expressing orthodox Christian beliefs is now unacceptable in the Church of England."

Young is not the only person to have raised concerns about the Online Safety Bill, which was introduced in the House of Commons on March 17.

The Government has said it will require social media platforms, search engines and other apps and websites allowing people to post their own content "to protect children, tackle illegal activity and uphold their stated terms and conditions".

It will also give regulator Ofcom the power to fine companies that breach the laws up to 10 per cent of their annual global turnover, and "force them to improve their practices and block non-compliant sites".

The Christian Institute has warned that without robust free speech protections, the Bill "could have unintended consequences" and "censor Christian teaching" on issues like sexuality, gender and marriage.

The Bill is to be debated by MPs at its Second Reading on April 19.