Parliament Votes to Debate Controversial Online Safety Bill Amid Opposition

Parliament today cast a decisive vote on whether to bring the government’s proposed Online Safety Bill (OSB) to the floor for debate. With 83 Parliamentarians supporting and 50 opposing, the motion to debate the Online Safety Bill during Tuesday’s parliamentary session was approved.

Earlier in the day, Opposition MP Harsha de Silva voiced concerns on ‘X’ critiquing Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena’s push to proceed with the debate despite significant amendments needed — 42 clauses, to be precise. De Silva highlighted a procedural oversight, noting the absence of a required Oversight Committee Report on the bill.

Subsequently, parliamentary proceedings were paused, allowing Party Leaders to deliberate on the advisability of debating the Online Safety Bill as proposed.

During the party leaders’ meeting with the Speaker, opposition parties collectively requested a postponement of the debate, pointing out constitutional discrepancies in over half of the bill’s clauses and labelling the legislation as potentially draconian.

Despite these objections, Speaker Abeywardena opted for a vote to resolve whether the debate should go ahead, disregarding MP de Silva’s plea to acknowledge the bill’s shortcomings. De Silva argued that without provisions for safe harbor, the bill would fail to effectively address real online crimes, as compliance by platforms could not be ensured.

This vote marks a critical moment in the legislative process, as Parliament moves forward to debate a bill that has sparked widespread debate over its implications for online safety and freedom.