Facebook, Instagram seek government protection from Jacob Rees-Mogg’s bill

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Facebook, Instagram seek government protection from Jacob Rees-Mogg’s bill

Facebook and Instagram have asked for government protection from Jacob Rees-Mogg's bonfire of up to 4,000 EU laws on post-Brexit statute books.

In a letter to a parliamentary committee on Friday, the parent group, Meta, asks that laws underpinning social media firms are either explicitly maintained elsewhere or removed from the scope of the retained EU law revocation and reform bill.

If they are not, groups like Facebook would be less likely to operate in the UK, according to Richard Earley, UK public policy manager at Meta.

Labour MP Stella Creasy said the bill could force social media companies out of the UK by accident.

Many of us want social media companies to be held accountable for how their platforms are used. She tweeted that Closing them down by default is not the way to do that but Meta themselves say it's possible because of the REUL bill.

Representatives of private and public interest groups were invited to participate in the consultation on the bill earlier in November, with criticism flooding in from organisations such as the Institute of Directors, the TUC, and the Chartered Trading Standards Institute CTSI, an organisation dedicated to consumer health and safety protections.

In a letter on Friday, the CTSI calls on the government to delay the bill, warning that there are 250 pieces of vital legislation covering food and product safety, animal health and welfare, fair trading, rogue and predatory trading, and legal metrology, the system for enforcing weights and measures so consumers get what they pay for.

The CTSI said the public was most concerned about the bill and the bill's impact on food standards, according to a survey conducted by the CTSI.

It found that tackling EU law was the last priority of voters who were more concerned with the cost of living and NHS. The bill was the brainchild of former business secretary Rees-Mogg.

The bill is in committee stage in the Commons. It proposes to remove up to 4,000 laws covering everything from animal testing of cosmetics to holiday pay and passenger compensation rights, unless these are actively saved by a minister. Legal experts have criticised it as reckless and anti-democratic because of the unprecedented powers it gives ministers.

The speed with which the government wants to push through the bill, which was introduced by Rees-Mogg in September, has also been criticised.

All EU laws that are not amended or updated by 31 December 2023 will automatically be switched off under a so-called sunset clause.

The bill was described as not fit for purpose this week by the government's independent assessor.

Earley wrote to the committee to draw attention to a set of laws derived from the 2002 Electronic Commerce EC Directive Regulations that are at risk of being changed or deleted.

The laws contain provisions known as intermediary liability, which protects social media companies from being liable for user conduct and content.

Earley said that the inclusion of the e-commerce directive within the scope of the bill will cause serious concerns.