New online safety laws are not about 'restricting speech'

Culture secretary: New online safety laws are not about 'restricting speech'

Monday, April 8, 2019

Jeremy Wright has said that the new online safety laws are about “controlling harms” on social media platforms, not restricting individuals’ freedom of speech.

Speaking to talkRADIO’s Julia Hartley-Brewer the Culture Secretary said the government is keen to promote freedom of speech but harmful content needs controlling, which could be done by an independent regulator.

“There is a lot of material out there online that frankly needs to be controlled, and in any other environment it would be," he said.

“If it was said on TV or radio it would be controlled and at the moment on the internet it is not. That is not sustainable.”

The government says the proposed safety law is a “world first” and will make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.

The white paper published by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport proposes fining social-media companies if they do not take responsibility for their users' “harmful” content.

Mr Wright added that the public had a right to expect these companies to do their best to remove dangerous content. 

“What we are setting out here is an expectation and a duty of care that they will do what is reasonable to keep their users safe,” he said.

"There is more these companies could do. There is technology available to them to prohibit some of this material going up in the first place and if it goes up, to come down very quickly.”

Damian Collins, chairman of the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport committee told Julia he did not think the new proposals were a form of censorship.

He said: “The tech companies are not just neutral platforms, they curate the content that we see.

“They use their algorithms to direct us towards content and they should have a responsibility of how they use that power.”

Mr Collins added that content such as child abuse images or terror-related content was already illegal and should not be on these sites.

“If we say they have a liability to remove it, they will be more effective and invest more of their vast resources to remove this content.”

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