Global Partners Digital (GPD), Index on Censorship and Online Rights Group have today written a joint letter to the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport in the UK, expressing concern over proposals that may be included the government’s Online Harms White Paper, due to be published later this month. The White Paper follows an earlier Internet Safety Strategy Green Paper in November 2017, and a government response in May 2018.
In October 2018, the same three organisations published a joint statement, noting that any proposals are likely to have a significant impact on the enjoyment and exercise of human rights online, particularly freedom of expression. In today’s letter, they express the shared belief that human rights requirements and considerations must be at the heart of the policymaking process, and make six specific recommendations to the government:
- The government should set out a clear evidence base in relation to any proposals put forward in the Online Harms White Paper.
- The government should fully consider non-legislative measures before opting for regulation in this field.
- Greater transparency on the part of social media platforms and others involved in the moderation and removal of online content should be the starting point when it comes to any regulation being considered.
- Strong caution should be exercised before proposals which attach liability to platforms for third party content are considered, such as a binding Code of Practice, a new “duty of care”, or a new regulatory body.
- Any legislative or regulatory proposals should contain explicit and unambiguous language on the importance of freedom of expression.
- In recognition of the UK’s commitment to the multistakeholder model of internet governance, it is important for all relevant stakeholders, including civil society, to be fully engaged throughout the Online Harm White Paper’s consultation period, and able to participate in the design and implementation of any measures which are finally adopted.