Stop state censorship of online speech

The UK has never welcomed a state regulator of offline speech  – the standard should be no different for online speech. Yet new Government proposals to make the Internet safer could lead to just that or worse – rule by Zuckerberg.

By contrast, Open Rights Group (ORG) favours a rights-based approach to making the Internet safer. We’re part of a coalition of free expression organisations meeting with the Government to find a way to address online harms without sacrificing our digital rights.

White Paper bites off more than it can chew

The Government’s 2019 Online Harms White Paper is counterproductive. For starters, it defines harmful content far too broadly, encompassing everything from online bullying and child abuse images to hate speech and terrorist propaganda.

The White Paper’s Duty of Care is especially problematic. It would put pressure on platforms like Facebook and Twitter to decide what people can and can’t say online, removing material even when that speech is lawful. Only the largest of Internet companies would easily comply, further strengthening already too powerful tech giants.

The Government has so far been unable to say how and when a “duty of care” would apply, or what would constitute “harm” or “risk”. This task would be exercised by a state regulator, the first time that a state regulator has been placed in charge of the speech of individuals.

Political pressure is building on Parliament to advance legislation – an Online Harms Bill may be on the horizon. When the time comes, ORG will need your help to campaign for a rights-based approach to making the Internet safer. Get involved by joining the movement to protect our digital rights.

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The Story So Far

Winners, losers, and unanswered questions

In their report released on Monday the House of Lords’ Democracy and Digital Technologies Select Committee produced a comprehensive overview of problems it considers to be of high importance to a functioning democracy.
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Online Harms: Blocking websites doesn’t work – use a rights-based approach instead

This is the finding from our recent research into website blocking by mobile and broadband Internet providers.
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