Tory colleagues say social media companies should not be forced to remove ‘legal but harmful content’
Conservative colleagues say the online safety law should remove restrictions on “legal but harmful” content to protect freedom of expression on social media.
Lord Frost, the former Brexit minister, welcomed promises from ministers to “upgrade” what he believes to be a “frighteningly illiberal” bill, but said this should “at least” include scrapping plans that force social media companies to “take legal action”. but harmful” content.
Backed by Lords Moylan, Strathcarron and Baroness Stowell, the former Cabinet Secretary, Lord Frost, said: “As things stand, the bill would impose dangerously vague requirements for companies like Meta to remove harmful content from their platforms.
“It would also give the Secretary of State the power to designate what such material is in the future, with only minimal parliamentary involvement.
“The bill should protect the concept that most people think is self-evident, which is that if you can say something in the real world, you should be able to say it online. If it’s legal to say, then it must be legal to type.”
The peers fear freedom of expression could be curtailed as social media companies could censor content through “awakened” biases or algorithms.
Freedom of speech
Their warning, backed by former Supreme Court justice Lord Sumption, comes as Index on Censorship, a free speech campaigner, has drafted a series of amendments to protect free speech.
In addition to removing clause 13 from the bill — which combats “legal but harmful” content — Index on Censorship also proposes limiting the definition of “illegal” to prevent algorithms from censoring content that could endanger free speech. bring.
It has also proposed protections for end-to-end encrypted communications, saying any control of private messages could expose users to backdoor hacking and leave the UK vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
Lord Sumption said: “This is a serious and constructive proposal to amend the more objectionable parts of this controversial bill. The government would do well to take note.”
Lord Moylan said: “It needs to be radically overhauled to make sure it doesn’t impose new restrictions on free speech or give power to large uncontrolled companies.”
Baroness Stowell said: “It is vital that the Online Safety Bill is amended so that we can quickly introduce much-needed online protections for our children without jeopardizing the principle of free speech for adults.”