Government Proposes ‘Most Censorious Online Speech Regime in the Western World’

Today the Government is officially announcing its plans to censor companies that host “harmful content such as violence, terrorism, cyber-bullying and child abuse” on the internetThe proposals will give the state quango Ofcom broad powers to censor the internet. By lumping in the subjective concept of “cyber-bullying” with genuine crimes, the scope for censorship is incredibly broad…

The Government does not expect legislators to read the lengthy response to its online harms consultation, so Guido has brought you the troubling highlights. Anyone in favour of free expression should be deeply worried… 

  • Ofcom will create guidelines to instruct any company with ‘user-generated content’ about how to manage online censorship. This includes comments sections on websites like Guido…
  • Ofcom will be given the remit to draw up and adapt the details of how its internet regulation works. Taking away power from accountable politicians and giving it to faceless bureaucrats.
  • Companies will be expected to remove illegal content.
  • Ofcom will also create rules for content that “is not illegal but has the potential to cause harm”.
    • The Government claims Ofcom will take a less serious approach with legal speech, however the Government has confirmed legal speech is in scope for censorship.
    • It is often not immediately clear what is illegal and what is legal speech, meaning regulation will force major companies to take an overly-censorious approach in the face of fines, jail time, and website blocks.
  • The “risk-based and proportionate” approach gives high levels of discretion Ofcom staff. Guido readers may be interested to note that Ofcom’s new chief executive is a “Diversity & Inclusion Champion” for the civil service. Inevitably ‘woke’ people will end up setting the rules…

The Government has stated a commitment to protect free expression, it is unclear how this will be balanced against a regulatory body that exists to create censorious guidelines.

The Adam Smith Institute’s Head of Research, Matthew Lesh, tells Guido:

“Make no mistake: free speech is under threat. The Government is proposing the most censorious online speech regime in the Western world. We must not be fooled by platitudes about freedom of expression. The inevitably woke bureaucrats in Ofcom will be deciding what sort of speech is and is not allowed across much of the internet. They will have extraordinary discretion to decide who to target and what is harmful.

This is a recipe for disaster for anyone that thinks differently to the Notting Hill set — any correct but unpopular opinions will not just come under attack from the Twitterati, but the law itself.”

The Tory’s 2019 manifesto was the only of any party to commit to “support free speech”. The Government has to change course.

mdi-tag-outline Free Speech Ofcom
mdi-timer February 12 2020 @ 14:26 mdi-share-variant mdi-twitter mdi-facebook mdi-whatsapp mdi-telegram mdi-linkedin mdi-email mdi-printer
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