Shorter Reads

A debate: Will The Online Safety Bill Make The Internet Safer?

Howard Ricklow was delighted to be invited to attend the New Statesman debate on “Will The Online Safety Bill Make The Internet Safer?”. Both sides were passionate in their arguments.

1 minute read

Published 5 April 2022

Authors

Share

Key information

  • Specialisms
  • Business
  • Services
  • Business
  • Media, arts and culture

The proposing argument

In a nutshell those proposing the motion from Damian Collins MP and Alex Towers, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at BT argued that companies should have liability for their platforms they are making money from in relation to e.g. misinformation, hate speech and the targeting of potential victims of self-harm or suicide.

They argued that “freedom of expression” does not override these concerns.

The opposing argument:

On the other hand speaking against the motion, Ruth Smeeth, former Labour MP and Chief Executive of Index on Censorship argued that the legislation would not make the internet safer and in fact, although originally about safeguarding children, the new objective was to make it “nicer” not “safer”.

She argued that the drafting of the Bill had gone on for some 9 years and the loose definition of “what is harmful” which the Bill is intended to address, may lead to massive automatic deletions of content where the platform considers it “illegal”, leading to difficulties in prosecuting the offenders.

The argument around Free Speech

Victoria Hewson (of the Institute of Economic Affairs), the second speaker against the motion argued along the lines of free speech and whether it was the Government’s job to regulate this area in any event. Equally is it the Government’s job to be responsible for “safety” and regulate the role of social media companies? In any event the legislation would mean huge governmental intervention. She argued that many of the areas were already illegal under the Public Order Act 1986. Ruth Smeeth added that there were exceptions for some, eg journalists and traditional news media sources. Ruth mentioned the likes of Tommy Robinson, who would be able to continue to say “what he liked”.

It was also argued that this new Bill would present barriers to new social media channels such as TikTok, as well as some jurisdictional issues such as, would a US company start up in the UK with this draconian legislation?

Comment:

One point of interest to me would be whether, as is the case of the EU claiming they have extra territorial jurisdiction in relation to GDPR, this legislation would seek to prosecute or shut down overseas’ platforms if they fall foul of the legislation and how in terms of public and private international law this would work.

I will be assiduously following the progress of the Bill, and continue to update as changes arise.

Message us on WhatsApp

Related latest updates
PREV NEXT

Related content

Arrow Back to Insights

Shorter Reads

A debate: Will The Online Safety Bill Make The Internet Safer?

Howard Ricklow was delighted to be invited to attend the New Statesman debate on “Will The Online Safety Bill Make The Internet Safer?”. Both sides were passionate in their arguments.

Published 5 April 2022

Associated sectors / services

Authors

The proposing argument

In a nutshell those proposing the motion from Damian Collins MP and Alex Towers, Director of Policy and Public Affairs at BT argued that companies should have liability for their platforms they are making money from in relation to e.g. misinformation, hate speech and the targeting of potential victims of self-harm or suicide.

They argued that “freedom of expression” does not override these concerns.

The opposing argument:

On the other hand speaking against the motion, Ruth Smeeth, former Labour MP and Chief Executive of Index on Censorship argued that the legislation would not make the internet safer and in fact, although originally about safeguarding children, the new objective was to make it “nicer” not “safer”.

She argued that the drafting of the Bill had gone on for some 9 years and the loose definition of “what is harmful” which the Bill is intended to address, may lead to massive automatic deletions of content where the platform considers it “illegal”, leading to difficulties in prosecuting the offenders.

The argument around Free Speech

Victoria Hewson (of the Institute of Economic Affairs), the second speaker against the motion argued along the lines of free speech and whether it was the Government’s job to regulate this area in any event. Equally is it the Government’s job to be responsible for “safety” and regulate the role of social media companies? In any event the legislation would mean huge governmental intervention. She argued that many of the areas were already illegal under the Public Order Act 1986. Ruth Smeeth added that there were exceptions for some, eg journalists and traditional news media sources. Ruth mentioned the likes of Tommy Robinson, who would be able to continue to say “what he liked”.

It was also argued that this new Bill would present barriers to new social media channels such as TikTok, as well as some jurisdictional issues such as, would a US company start up in the UK with this draconian legislation?

Comment:

One point of interest to me would be whether, as is the case of the EU claiming they have extra territorial jurisdiction in relation to GDPR, this legislation would seek to prosecute or shut down overseas’ platforms if they fall foul of the legislation and how in terms of public and private international law this would work.

I will be assiduously following the progress of the Bill, and continue to update as changes arise.

Associated sectors / services

Authors

Need some more information? Make an enquiry below.

    Subscribe

    Please add your details and your areas of interest below

    Specialist sectors:

    Legal services:

    Other information:

    Jurisdictions of interest to you (other than UK):

    Article contributor

    Enjoy reading our articles? why not subscribe to notifications so you’ll never miss one?

    Subscribe to our articles

    Message us on WhatsApp (calling not available)

    Please note that Collyer Bristow provides this service during office hours for general information and enquiries only and that no legal or other professional advice will be provided over the WhatsApp platform. Please also note that if you choose to use this platform your personal data is likely to be processed outside the UK and EEA, including in the US. Appropriate legal or other professional opinion should be taken before taking or omitting to take any action in respect of any specific problem. Collyer Bristow LLP accepts no liability for any loss or damage which may arise from reliance on information provided. All information will be deleted immediately upon completion of a conversation.

    I accept Close

    Close
    Scroll up
    ExpandNeed some help?Toggle

    Get in touch

    Get in touch using our form below.