Julian Knight's Westminster Diary, 11/06/20

Solihull Observer

Since I was elected as Chair of the Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport Committee in the House of Commons in January, one of my top priorities has been combating the spread of disinformation and fake news online.

Making sure that people can access accurate information is vital to democracy at any time. But it is especially important during a pandemic when the Government needs to communicate life-saving public health information.

Spreading fake news about Covid-19 doesn’t just cause people unnecessary distress: it undermines the credibility of the real advice too.

We have seen some of the consequences of this here in Solihull, where somebody attacked a telephone mast, doubtless motivated by the unfounded conspiracy theories linking coronavirus to 5G.

That’s why over the past few weeks I have been taking a lead to hold both the Government and the big social media companies to account for making progress on this.

I called representatives of Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Google in front of my committee, and have spoken to the Oxford Internet Institute to get their expert perspective on what needs to be done.

And last week, I challenged Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary, on when his Department will be bringing forward vital online harms legislation.

Meanwhile I have also been holding ‘DCMS surgeries’, allowing MPs from across the UK to bring me their concerns, especially about the impact of an extended lockdown on tourism, theatres, live music, and other cultural venues.

Speaking of lockdown, I continue to be bowled over by all the ways in which Silhillians have stepped up to support their neighbours and our community during this crisis.

This week’s Corona Heroes are the Rev Jonny Lee and his team at the Renewal Christian Centre for their outstanding work running the Helping Hands food bank.

Last month alone, they made 2,084 deliveries of food and other essential supplies to those who need it most in the Solihull borough.

All this is only possible because of the overwhelming support from Renewal’s ‘church family’ and community partners, as well as the tireless efforts of volunteers who have put in countless hours to make it a success. Thank you!