Michael Gove wants to hold ‘online giants’ to account for internet homophobia

Environment secretary Michael Gove has said that he wants the Conservative party to hold social-media companies to account for online homophobia, and bring in hate crime laws for sexuality-related offences.

At the PinkNews summer reception at Westminster today (July 4), Gove said that “online giants” should be held to account for online bullying.

Equalities minister Baroness Susan Williams also spoke about the need for progress when it comes to LGBT+ equality.

Williams called for progress on banning gay conversion therapy and Gove also said he wanted to see hate-crime legislation specific to attacks on someone’s sexuality brought in.

Gove’s ’embarrassing confession’

Gove began his speech by joking that he had an “embarrassing confession” – that it was the second time in two months that he’d been on the same stage as shadow foreign secretary Emily Thornberry, and the second time in two months that he had agreed with every word she said.

Thornberry shouted from the crowd, “That’s embarrassing for me.”

Gove said that “homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying online needs to be policed with as much rigor as other areas.”

“Online giants should be held to account. They need to clean up their act and protect our young people.”

Gove also called out the “homophobic and misogynistic attack on two young women” on a London bus.

“We need hate crime legislation that makes attacking someone because of gender or sexuality an aggravated offence,” he said.

Fifty years since Stonewall

Williams began her speech by paying tribute to Marsha P. Johnson, and said that the world today would be “unrecognisable” to those at the Stonewall Inn 50 years ago.

“Fifty years ago the world changed forever in a bar in New York. In that moment we made progress,” Williams said.

But, Williams said, “Progress is hard fought and it’s easily lost and that feels especially true today, when LGBT+ people and the issues that affect them are squarely in the public eye – you don’t have to look far to find seeds of discontent being sown.”

“We will bring forward a consultation on ending the practice of so-called conversion therapy,” Williams said.

“I will not pretend this work will be easy, there are likely to be difficult conversations to come but we must have them.

“Having open, respectful and constructive discussion about these issues is the only way we can bring everyone with us on LGBT+ inclusion, it is the only way we can make progress,” Williams said.

Thornberry announced nominees for two PinkNews awards during her speech at the PinkNews reception: the Business Equality Award and the Role Model Award.

The PinkNews event took place at Church House in Westminster, London.

The Westminster reception was supported by Gilead and Octopus Group. Pride in London was the charity partner.