The Government’s Online Safety Bill is a serious threat to free speech and religious liberty. The key concern is the proposal to regulate ‘legal but harmful’ social media content. Politicians could tell Big Tech companies to censor perfectly legal content.
These companies will be expected to police this vague concept under threat of massive fines of up to ten per cent of their global revenue if they fail. Inevitably, this will lead to over-zealous censorship, including of mainstream biblical teaching on sexual and medical ethics.
The Bill is expected to be considered by MPs again in the coming weeks, and Government ministers have to decide how to respond to the free speech concerns that have been raised. Please write to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, The Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP, and urge her to scrap the ‘legal but harmful’ duties applying to adults.
Other parts of the Bill, such as strengthening protections for children online and forcing tech companies to stop illegal content appearing on their platforms, are welcome. The Bill is needed. But the ‘legal but harmful to adults’ category goes much too far.
All too often we hear accusations that someone is causing harm just for saying what they believe. Eminent Christian doctor Peter Saunders had a talk on transgenderism removed by YouTube. Even prominent public figures like JK Rowling have been vilified for challenging transgender ideology. These problems would be magnified by the current wording of the Bill.
Please contact Michelle Donelan today. We have included contact details and some tips for what to say below. If you can, please let us know what response you get.
Please pray that Christians will be free to express biblical truth online as well as offline.
Yours in Christ,
The Christian Institute
Contacting the Secretary of State
The Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is The Rt Hon Michelle Donelan MP.
|Email The Rt Hon Michelle Donelan|
|Postal address:Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport|
100 Parliament Street
- Be brief, polite, and clear. You will be most effective if you use your own words.
- Urge the Secretary of State to drop the ‘legal but harmful’ duties applying to adults from the Online Safety Bill.
- Say that these duties will mean there is less freedom of speech online than offline. What people are free to say on the street, they should be free to say online as well.
Use one or two of the following points (in your own words):
- Say social media companies are already censoring content they don’t agree with, and the Bill will make this problem worse by incentivising companies to regulate legal content. They will go beyond what the law requires.
- Say ‘harm’ is too vague a concept for such legislation. Activists often claim to be ‘harmed’ by Christian views.
- Say the ‘legal but harmful’ duties will inevitably lead to over-censorship as companies will err on the side of caution to avoid heavy fines. The algorithms that will be used to identify ‘harmful’ content are blunt instruments and cannot identify irony or sarcasm.
- Say that although the Bill does not force tech companies to take down ‘harmful’ content, no platform will allow something labelled ‘harmful’ by the Government for fear of fines.
- Say that giving the Secretary of State power to decide what ‘legal but harmful’ covers is a ready-made tool for future arbitrary state censorship, regardless of what is included now.
- Say removing the duties on ‘harmful’ content for adults would have no effect on the important and uncontroversial duties to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content. These two elements of the Bill are completely separate.
- Say it is bizarre that the Government is strengthening protections for free speech at universities but at the same time putting it at risk online.
- Say duties to protect adults from ‘harmful’ content risk infantilising us all. Adults need to be free to engage in robust debate, even if this sometimes offends the feelings of others.
- Say that social media companies should have a responsibility to uphold free speech for a wide range of perspectives because of the major influence they can have on public debate.