Online Safety Bill will seriously undermine free speech and privacy, warns IEA expert

Commenting on the introduction of the Online Safety Bill in Parliament, Matthew Lesh, Head of Public Policy at free market think tank the Institute of Economic Affairs, said:

“The government’s online safety bill is an incoherent mess that will seriously undermine free speech and privacy. 

“The continued inclusion of ‘legal but harmful’ speech is a recipe for disaster. Nadine Dorries is wrong to suggest that parliamentary oversight of ‘legal but harmful’ will prevent overzealous removals. Big Tech will still be forced to censor legal speech, and take a cautious approach to anything that could potentially be unlawful, or else face massive fines. The planned new communications offences will force platforms to remove speech merely on the suspicion that it could cause psychological harm.

“The Bill will give Ofcom the power to force platforms to use tools to automatically censor speech. Age gating and the ‘porn block’ will undermine user privacy. The Bill also creates extraordinary regulatory burdens on start-ups that will scare away investment and cement the power of Big Tech.

“The focus on criminal sanctions for tech bosses, during a free speech clampdown in Russia, is frankly horrifying. We should be standing proudly for the power of free debate and free societies not introducing totalitarian new laws. The addition of a number of new criminal offences is heralded as a benefit but when the police and courts are already overstretched, is this really a priority for the use of the criminal law?”


Notes to editors

Contact: Emily Carver, Head of Media, 07715 942 731

IEA spokespeople are available for interview and further comment.

Further IEA reading: In harm’s way: Why online safety regulation needs an Independent Reviewer

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