Nadine Dorries will be able to censor the internet unless new powers intended to make tech giants more accountable are reformed, MPs have warned.
The Online Safety Bill must be overhauled so that the Culture Secretary and her successors cannot order the industry regulator Ofcom to take down content before an assessment by Parliament, the MPs said.
In its current form the bill would allow Ms Dorries to directly intervene in Ofcom’s decisions over what to block or permit online by making changes to its code of practice.
Julian Knight, the chairman of the digital, culture media and sport select committee, said: “A free media depends on ensuring the regulator is free from the threat of day-to-day interference from the executive.
“The government will still have an important role in setting the direction of travel, but Ofcom must not be constantly peering over its shoulder answering to the whims of a backseat-driving secretary of state.”
The recommendations come as Ofcom is poised to inherit new powers to grapple with tech companies and social media apps by putting senior managers in jail or dishing out multi-billion pound fines worth up to 10pc of annual turnover if illegal or harmful content to children is found on their websites.
However, the bill has faced fierce scrutiny from news publishers over fears it could muzzle free speech without stronger exemptions for journalism.
Ms Dorries has already promised an accelerated appeals process for news providers whose stories are removed by tech companies, while exempting publishers from fines for false or harmful content.