The online world can be a dangerous place, both for individuals and potentially for wider society. Fake news, child exploitation, revenge porn, online stalking and harassment, glorification of terrorism, online scams, manipulation of elections, the list of potential harms that that the internet (or rather those digital bad actors who use the internet) is said to inflict goes on and on. Little wonder then, one might think, that the UK Government included in last week’s Queen’s Speech proposals for legislation apparently aimed at curbing such harms. After all, what government would not want to put an end to such digital evils?
However, before we all rush to embrace the Online Harms Bill, there are two important questions we need to ask ourselves.
First, is this legislation actually likely to work in terms of safeguarding society against the worst excesses of online use? The aims of this Bill are undoubtedly ambitious but is the Ofcom-centred scheme for internet regulation likely to realise those aims in practice?
Second, and no less importantly, is there a price which society would pay for this new regulatory scheme, and is it a price worth paying? Is this draft legislation – with its heavy emphasis on forcing commercial online intermediaries to act as our digital social conscience – a recipe for excessive, potentially anti-democratic online censorship? For all the Government’s claims that the Bill is designed to ‘protect society’ and enhance ‘protections for democratic debate’, is this draft legislation which in fact poses a serious threat to online free speech, neutralising voices which should be heard in the public interest and otherwise depriving the internet of its vibrancy? Put shortly, is this draft legislation which would, if enacted, do more harm than good?
Together with offering an analysis of the Bill’s key features, these are questions that 11KBW’s Anya Proops KC and Rupert Paines will be exploring in their forthcoming webinar on the Online Harms Bill at 10am on Thursday 20 May 2021.
Date: 20 May 2021
Time: 10am – 11am
This webinar is free of charge.
Register in advance for this webinar:
If you would like to register in advance for this webinar, please email RSVP@11kbw.com.
Please note this webinar is hosted by Zoom. Please see Zoom’s website for their terms and conditions.