Former Minister warns that UK Internet bill will give state unprecedented censorship power


The upcoming online safety bill has given the Secretary of State and Ofcom “unprecedented censorship rights” to warn of new research backed by a trio of top-level former frontbenchers.

A new briefing paper by the Institute of Economic Research (IEA) warns that the online safety bill will have a significant impact on freedom of speech, privacy and innovation, and is sponsored by former Minister of State Frost, former Minister of Brexit. European Union MP David Davis, former Secretary of State for Defense Liam Fox.

The following bill on the regulation of online space will be the first major set of regulations on the Internet anywhere in the world and was introduced by conservatives in Congress on March 17.

Harmful content

The bill aims to “protect children from harmful content such as pornography, protect freedom of speech, and limit people’s exposure to illegal content.” According to the press release Announced the bill.

This forces Google, Twitter, Meta (formerly Facebook) and others to comply with the Code of Conduct monitored by Ofcom and remove “legal but harmful” content.

Matthew Lesh, Head of Public Policy at the IEA, and Victoria Hewson, Head of Regulatory Issues at the IEA, wrote in their report:pdf) The bill’s “scope, complexity, and scope are breathtaking” and “threats freedom of speech and privacy while imposing enormous regulatory burdens on platforms that impede innovation.” thing.

They said the Secretary of State and the regulators of the UK communications service Ofcom have unprecedented authority to define and limit speech by “restricting parliamentary or judicial oversight.”

In widespread criticism, the report also said that the introduction of age-guaranteed requirements would force search engines and social media to withhold potentially harmful information by default. We compared this to when the European Union introduced the GDPR regulations, after which more than 1,000 US news websites blocked access to UK users.

Epoch Times Photo
Former Secretary of State David Davis has left the European Union at a press conference in London on January 15, 2019. (Leon Neil / Getty Images)

The report added that this makes it difficult for adults to access information without logging in to the service, and even if it is educationally valuable, children could ban content altogether. ..

Hughson press release “Although much attention has been paid to the coverage of the bill’s” legal but harmful “speech, there is also a duty of care targeting illegal content given that context and intent are the key to such crimes. I’m just as worried. Of the new speech crimes the bill creates. “

The bill was fired primarily by ministers within the Conservative Party.

“The best thing the government can do is to streamline the bill so that it can quickly move on to the truly indisputable side and outsource the rest, the used paper basket,” Tory Peer said. Frost states in a press release.

“There are so many mistakes in this bill that I don’t know where to start, but the report correctly emphasizes the fact that it means that offline legal speech is virtually impossible online. It doesn’t make sense, and it will hurt public debate, especially given the weakness of the bill’s freedom of speech, “he added.

“The bill is also content with long-standing angry views for those who think the government should protect them from encountering things they disagree with. The conservatives should not legislate this view. “.

“Freedom of speech is a basic human right.”

Congressman David Davis also issued a harsh warning about the bill.

“The government is undoubtedly well-meaning, but in its current form, the bill could be one of the most serious accidental infringements of freedom of speech in modern times,” Davis said in a press release. ..

Liam Fox MP added, “Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right, essential to the functioning of democracy and necessary to be able to contrast and evaluate different views in a pluralistic society.” ..

“Any restrictions are exceptional and should be determined by a rigorous test of need and proportion. Otherwise, fully intended behavior can have very detrimental and unintended consequences. The law needs to be tested against these principles, “he added.

The Epoch Times has contacted the UK Government for comment on the new report.

Owen Evans


Owen Evans is a UK-based journalist who covers stories from a wide range of countries with a particular interest in civil liberties and free speech.