Lord Frost leads Tory revolt against Boris Johnson as he demands PM rethink plans

The former Brexit minister has been outspoken in his opinions of Mr Johnson’s administration since standing down last December. He quit citing the “direction of Government” and has been critical of many decisions taken by ministers since then.

The peer, popular amongst grassroots Tories, is now set to cause a fresh headache for the Prime Minister by criticising the Online Safety Bill.

Ministers have praised the legislation for years to crackdown on “harmful” content online.

But Lord Frost has warned it risks being over-zealous and stifling opinions on social media.

While Tories support the legislation’s intention to ban content such as child abuse images of content that could inspire terrorism, they fear other aspects of the Bill will have a damaging impact on free speech.

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Lord Frost opposes proposals that would mean social media platforms would need to take action on “legal but harmful” content such as inflammatory comments.

He believes it risks giving social media companies too much of a say over what should and should not be allowed to appear online, risking censoring perfectly legitimate political debate.

“The Government would be wise to take a fresh look at the Online Safety Bill before beginning discussion in Parliament,” Lord Frost told The Telegraph.

“Aspects of it present a real risk to freedom of expression in this country.

“It clearly hasn’t been properly thought through in all its aspects and it would be better to pause, have further discussion, and get things right.”

He was joined in his criticism by a series of other senior former ministers including David Davis, Steve Baker, and Sir John Hayes.

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Sir John, who has advocated censoring porn online as well as self-harm content, warned: “It is very important in the proper effort to control the excesses of the internet that we don’t allow free speech to be inhibited by woke prejudices about what views are acceptable.”

It is thought some of the issues raised by the Conservatives will be addressed by the Government.

However, ministers are unwavering in their proposals to tackle “harmful” content.

The culture department said social media firms would be required to have an appeals process against content removed.

News publishers are also exempt from the regulations in order to protect reporting.

A Government spokesman said: “This Bill follows years of intensive work, extensive drafting and has been subject to pre-legislative scrutiny via a joint committee of both houses.

“Following feedback from a range of stakeholders it includes strong protections to uphold freedom of speech and prevent social media platforms arbitrarily removing content.

“Delaying its introduction will only hold back putting much-needed accountability on tech platforms to keep children and the vulnerable safe online.”

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