Content not available: Why the UK proposal for a ‘package of platform safety measures’ will harm free speech

Mark Leiser , Dr Edina Harbinja

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

In April 2019, the UK Government’s Department of Culture, Media and Sport (hereafter: DCMS) released its White Paper for ‘Online Harms’ which, if accepted, would impose a new duty of care in law towards users by platforms to be overseen by an independent regulator. This article outlines how we got to this point and sets out what the White Paper proposes; in particular a new regulator and the imposition of a ‘duty of care’ on platforms. While acknowledging that a ‘duty of care’ works well in some environments, it is not appropriate for policing content and expression online. A duty of care will result in the blocking of otherwise legal, but only subjectively harmful, content. We argue that, contrary to DCMS claims, the proposed regulator is not independent and could be subject to political interference. We provide a brief examination of the ‘online harms’ listed in the White Paper, as well as obligations to protect free expression and the legal framework that shields platforms from liability. We conclude that the imposition of a duty of care on platforms will result in an unacceptable chilling effect on free expression, resulting in a draconian regulatory environment for platforms, with user rights adversely affected.
Original languageEnglish
JournalSanta Clara High Technology Law Journal
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 9 Oct 2019

Keywords

  • online harms
  • free speech
  • duty of care

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