UK Online Security Bill Leads to Freedom of Speech Violations: Leading Lawyers


According to leading media law experts, everyone who uses the Internet will be affected by the UK government’s next online safety bill. This severely limits freedom of expression and has serious consequences.

In a legal opinion on the index on censorship of the Freedom of Speech Campaign Group, Gavin Miller QC strongly criticized the government’s future legislation.

The following bill on the regulation of online space, the world’s first major regulation of the Internet, was introduced by Parliament on March 17. The bill “protects children from harmful content such as pornography, protects people’s freedom of speech, and exposes them to illegal content.”

The Millar document is part of the “Legal to Say, Legal to Type” campaign, a coalition of civil society and industry associations formed in response to the publication of the draft online safety bill last year. Members include David Davis MP and Index onCensorship CEORuth Smeeth.

Internet usage restrictions

Millar said the ambiguous wording of the bill means “expected to affect” in scope “to all UK users of social media, search engines, and other platforms.”

Under this bill, the largest social media platforms will perform risk assessments on the types of harm that may appear in the service and how to deal with them, and set how this is done from a service perspective. is needed. Ofcom, a communications regulator, has the authority to fine companies that fail to comply with the law, up to 10% of their annual global sales.

30-page document (pdf), Miller states that the bill does not acknowledge that Internet users’ freedom of speech can be violated.

“Once this legal system comes into force, there will be even more restrictions on the use of the Internet,” he writes.

“The bill, which was passed by Parliament for the second time on April 19, does not comply with Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and is far from the cultural secretary’s claim that the bill protects freedom of speech. Yes, it positively undermines existing legislation. Protection in an unprecedented way, “he said.

He added that his report was “too broad to be concise” rather than a comprehensive analysis of the bill’s “deficiencies.”

“The idea that speech can be legally mitigated without proper judgment of an individual’s intentions or the context of speech is meaningless, whether terrorism, crime or freedom of speech,” he said. Told.

“A single misunderstood post or excessive algorithm can have serious consequences for how British citizens communicate with friends and family and save valuable memories,” Miller added.

“Very limited” protection

If the material is considered potentially illegal, social media companies may unilaterally remove illegal content, endangering crime victims if law enforcement work becomes difficult. He also said that there is. College students may not be able to discuss important topics online, and comedians may find that their accounts may be suspended for statements intended to be humorous or satirical.

Millar says that the protection of journalism is “very limited” and the content of international publications may be arbitrarily censored and removed from social media platforms before the publisher appeals. Said.

In addition, the bill will allow scanning of private communications between journalists and sources, “impossibling important daily secure communications.”

In a previous statement to The Epoch Times, a spokesperson for the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sports said: Work with businesses and Ofcom to protect people’s rights to freedom of speech, access to journalism, and democratically important content. “

Lily Zhou contributed to this report.

Owen Evans

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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.

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