Response to Consultation on the Online Harms White Paper July 2019



  • Rights-based regulatory framing
  • Right to publish legal content
  • Accuracy as well as speed
  • Access to effective redress
  • Equality of arms
  • Avoid measures that compel takedown of legal content


1.1 Open Rights Group (ORG) is a UK-based digital campaigning organisation working to protect fundamental rights to privacy and free speech online. With over 3,000 active supporters, we are a grassroots organisation with local groups across the UK.

1.2 ORG has actively engaged with the government’s proposals for online regulation since the Internet Safety Strategy in 2017. The following comments have been developed through a long period of reflection, report writing and engagement with different stakeholder groups. Our main reports underpinning this response are:

Internet Regulation, Parts I1 and II2

Blocked: Collateral Damage in the War against Online Harms3

DNS Security: Getting It Right

1.3 In recent months, we have met with tech industry representatives, children’s rights and safety groups, academics, lawyers and think-tanks, government departments and regulatory bodies to discuss the issues raised in the White Paper. We also co-hosted an interactive multi-stakeholder workshop bringing together all these different perspectives in a discussion setting to explore difference and find consensus.5 Our thinking in respect of the White Paper proposals has been refined, enriched and sharpened as a result of having these diverse conversations.

1.4 We welcome this opportunity to respond to the White Paper. Our narrative response opts not to address specific questions but rather deals with issues and concerns more holistically, and comments supplement verbal contributions we have made at the topic-focused roundtable meetings hosted by DCMS. References to parts of the White Paper are included in square brackets [x].

1.5 We note that as the government continues to develop this regulatory proposal, all relevant stakeholders, including civil society and smaller/niche platforms, should be fully engaged and able to participate in the design and implementation of any measures which are finally adopted. If the government wishes to develop a truly effective system of regulation, it needs to listen to expert voices, engage with practical tech and legal realities, and be prepared to compromise on its own ambitions and desires.