Plans to address legal but harmful content ‘threaten free speech’

by Jeremy

A House of Lords report warned that the government’s plan to impose a duty on technology platforms to deal with “legal but harmful” content in the Online Safety Bill would be ineffective and threaten freedom of speech. Under Bill’s duty of care, tech platforms that host user-generated content or allow people to communicate will be legally obliged to proactively identify, remove and limit the spread of both illegal and legal but harmful content – such as child sexual abuse, terrorism, and suicide material – or they could be fined up to 10% of their turnover by the online harms regulator.

Now confirmed to be Ofcom. In its report, published on 22 July 2021, the House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee said that although it welcomes Bill’s proposals to oblige tech platforms to remove illegal content and protect children from harm, it does not support the government’s plan to make companies moderate content that is legal but may be objectionable to some. Instead, the Lords argued that existing laws should be adequately enforced, such as those on harassment or grossly offensive publications. Any severe harms not already made illegal should be criminalized.

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