UPDATE: We've just published our new report exposing the scale of Big Tech censorship and warning against the Government's Online Safety Bill. The legislation introduces state-backed censorship and monitoring on a scale never seen before in a liberal democracy. Online speech regulations inscribe limitations on the everyday communications of billions of people.
This regulation would deputise private companies like Facebook to be the speech police of the internet. Government has designed the plans not only to deal with crime online, but to explicitly target lawful speech. This is a seriously dangerous direction. We're fighting the Government's censorious plans - stayed tuned and subscribe for updates and action alerts.
2021 has been a year in which online censorship made its way to the heart of debates about the state of free speech and democracy.
From the Twitter ban handed to a former President, to the suspension of a national UK radio station’s YouTube Channel, big tech censorship can no longer be ignored.
Now, the UK Government have introduced an Online Safety Bill which threatens the future of free speech. Websites will have to suppress so-called “harmful” content even if it is lawful. That’s likely to be speech that is controversial, marginalised or non-conformist.
The Online Safety Bill will result in the state-sanctioned censorship of lawful expression online of a magnitude never previously possible in a liberal democracy.
Under the Online Safety Bill, examples of censorship like these would become far more widespread.
Our new report, The State of Free Speech Online, examines social media censorship with a catalogue of shocking examples. It maps the impact of Big Tech’s corporatisation of speech standards and the Government’s disastrous plans for curbing online expression even more.
It’s the product of over 2 years of research, during which major themes have emerged: speech on sex, gender and race; political posts; and posts relating to health, from mental health to Covid-19.
You may find some of the banned posts in this report disagreeable, misguided or offensive. But the question is – should we accept the growing power of corporate and state censors to silence lawful speech?
The rule of law must be upheld online – but the Online Safety Bill would create a two-tier speech system with even greater control by privatised speech police online. The Johnson Government must protect the right to free expression - controls on lawful speech must be removed from the Online Safety Bill.
Read the report:
Internet and social media companies are the public squares of the modern-day. They have allowed people to communicate, politically organise, expose corruption and wrongdoing, and build new communities on a scale never seen before.
But our online public spheres are at risk.
Social media companies are censoring views and deleting accounts haphazardly, often in response to political tides rather than rule breaches, effectively playing judge and jury with our rights.
Meanwhile, the Government has published its Online Safety Bill, which seeks to regulate social media companies forcing them to monitor and censor social networks more than ever.
This Bill is disastrous for privacy rights and free expression online. The Government is clamping down on vague categories of lawful speech. This could easily result in the silencing of marginalised voices and unpopular views.”
Three ways you can protect #FreeSpeechOnline:
Share, tweet, post your support for #FreeSpeechOnline
We’re collecting evidence on social media censorship. If you, or someone/a group you know, have been affected by unfair platform rules, bans or deletions, please tell us about it.
(+ include screenshots/links where possible).
You can read our parliamentary briefings on regulating internet platforms in 2018 and beyond here: