GPD gives evidence at UK Parliament hearing on democracy and freedom of expression

16 May 2019

On Wednesday GPD’s Head of Legal, Richard Wingfield, gave evidence to the UK Parliament Joint Committee on Human Rights on the subject of “Democracy, free speech and freedom of association”. He was joined at the hearing by Jodie Ginsberg of Index on Censorship, and Professor Jacob Rowbottom of Oxford University.

The inquiry is being undertaken against a backdrop of increasing instances of abuse and violent threats being made towards MPs via social media, which have led some to call for new regulation of social media companies.

In his evidence, Richard highlighted some of the concerns in relation to how social media companies are moderating online content, particularly the lack of transparency over the enforcement of their content moderation policies and how users can challenge decisions. In response to questions about new regulation of social media companies, Richard pointed out the risks to freedom of expression stemming from the proposals in the UK’s Online Harms White Paper, such as overly broad forms of speech becoming prohibited online, the privatisation of law enforcement functions in dealing with illegal speech, and increased reliance on technologies for moderation of content, such as AI, despite its inability to accurately assess context and other critical factors when making decisions.

  • Video clips of Richard’s key responses are available here.
  • Watch the full hearing here.
  • And read the evidence we submitted to the Committee here.