No state censorship of online speech

What’s legal to say should be legal to type – a government regulator shouldn’t control your speech, online or off – yet the new Online Safety Bill could lead to just that, or worse.

The bloated Bill contains so many risks to free speech. Our policy expert Dr Monica Horten has been documenting these on our blog.

For starters, the appointment of a state speech regulator – appointed and directed by government – will create a sprawling bureaucracy of speech police. The Home Office and the DCMS will direct what speech must be removed, filtered and monitored.

For another thing, the Bill’s provisions to block websites, apps, or services which refuse to cooperate with the speech regulator’s orders could put household names like Wikipedia, Reddit and Tumblr in the crosshairs.

Meanwhile, tech giants with the resources to surveil all user content would grow ever stronger. And perhaps the most shocking power, the Bill could force private messaging apps to monitor all user communications, including your private conversations with family and friends, on the assumption that we are all engaging in criminal conduct.

Feel safer yet?

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.

Political pressure is building on Parliament to advance the Online Safety Bill. When the time comes, ORG will need your help to campaign for a better, rights-based approach to making the Internet safer.

Sign our pledge to help stop state censorship of online speech!

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The Story So Far

Online Safety Bill: Will the upload filter ban images of protest?

Recently, we saw how police threatened and in a couple of cases, arrested, anti-monarchy protesters, following the death of the late queen Elizabeth II, The images were widely circulated on social media and the police eventually were forced to acknowledge that these protests were, in fact, lawful.
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Can our new Prime Minister be trusted with free speech and privacy?

As Liz Truss flies to Balmoral tomorrow to meet the Queen, who will ask her to form a government, what can we expect for our free speech and privacy rights?
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Could public debate on immigration be suppressed by the Online Safety Bill?

A little bombshell, hidden deep within the gargantuan piece of legislation that is the Online Safety Bill, could have the effect of suppressing public debate around immigration.
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MPs must rethink this dire Bill

The government has delayed further debate on the Online Safety Bill until the Autumn.
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Internet policy is broken

The government’s proposals for the Online Safety Bill are getting worse, rather than better.
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The Online Safety Bill: punishing victims

The government has today announced two new regressive and unworkable additions to the Online Safety Bill.
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Joint Committee advice cannot fix flawed Online Safety Bill

On 14 December 2021, the Joint Parliamentary Committee charged with scrutinising the draft Online Safety Bill published its report.
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Online Safety Bill will not tackle monopoly abuse

As Parliament makes its recommendations on the Online Safety Bill, trying to fix the problems of accountability it brings, while perhaps adding new complexities, we need to step back and ask whether the Bill will do the job it is setting out to do.
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Online Safety Bill: Sweeping Ministerial Powers

The Joint Parliamentary Committee scrutinising the government’s Draft Online Safety Bill concluded its evidence sessions on 4 November.
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What’s the Harm in the Online Safety Bill?

Throughout the development of the government’s Online Harms policy, a central concern of ORG and other human rights organisations is how any legally mandated content moderation policy could practically be achieved.
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Online Safety Bill: Kill Switch for Encryption

Of the many worrying provisions contained within the draft Online Safety Bill, perhaps the most consequential is contained within Chapter 4, at clauses 63-69.
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Weakening privacy will fuel online harms

Government is asking a big question: how do we regulate the tech industry?
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Papers please: nationality checks for the British internet?

Over the course of the debate on how to tackle online harms, we’ve drawn attention to the risks to digital and human rights which can arise when technical solutionism meets poorly drafted legislation.
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How the Online Safety Bill lets politicians define free speech

The Joint Pre-Legislative Scrutiny committee has opened its work into the draft Online Safety Bill.
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Age verification in the Online Safety Bill

The draft Online Safety Bill’s provisions on mandatory age verification don’t just threaten your rights to privacy and freedom of expression – they also threaten the integrity of the Internet’s architecture.
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Encryption in the Online Safety Bill

Let’s look at how the Online Safety Bill brings the contents of your private communications into scope for scanning, monitoring, and censorship.
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Racists must be prosecuted, not moderated

The wave of racist comments on social media that has followed the England football defeat is reprehensible: but so is the fiction that this problem must be ‘solved’ by social media companies.
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Access denied: Service blocking in the Online Safety Bill

As the Online Safety Bill approaches the pre-legislative scrutiny process, attention is being drawn to the powers which government will have to redefine, constrain, and censor the boundaries of our free and legal speech.
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Duty to Censor: What’s legal to say should be legal to type

Open Rights Group has joined Index on Censorship’s “Legal to say, legal to type” campaign to scrutinise and push back against the threats to freedom of expression created by government’s Online Safety Bill.
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Online abuse: Why management liability isn’t the answer

As part of recent high-profile campaigns against social media abuse, calls have been repeated to impose criminal sanctions and penalties onto the directors and managers of companies where that abuse takes place.
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Endgame for end-to-end encryption

Today, Wired has reported that the Home Office is actively exploring legal and technical mechanisms to compel Facebook and WhatsApp to break end-to-end encrypted messaging.
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#SaveAnonymity: Together we can defend anonymity

In recent days, a petition has circulated online which calls for a legal requirement to provide a verified form of ID in order to open a social media account.
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Save Online Speech Coalition Launches

Today Open Rights Group has joined our colleagues from Big Brother Watch, the Adam Smith Institute, Article 19, Global Partners Digital, and Index on Censorship in launching a campaign to demand that the Online Safety Bill protects freedom of expression online.
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Speech offences: what’s illegal offline should be illegal online

Open Rights Group has worked with David Allen Green of Preiskel & Co.
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Trump takedowns need accountability

Late last week, in response to the insurrection at the Capitol, Twitter and Facebook removed Donald Trump’s accounts.
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Online Harms: Encryption under attack

The UK government wants to make the web “safer” by using the Online Harms Bill to weaken encryption of private messages.
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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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