Government surveillance interest group Big Brother Watch has released an insightful Report entitled: The State of Free Speech Online.
The Report looks at crucial provisions of the English Government’s proposed Online Safety Bill, critiquing its impact on freedom of speech.
The Report in particular focuses on social media platforms and the impact of the Bills provisions on their ability to facilitate free speech.
TPP supports free speech unequivocally, recognising that in a democratic society both rights of free speech and the protection of ones private life must be carefully balanced and safeguarded.
The recent move of Facebook in removing the publication of third parties Australian news from its site in protest to the provisions of the proposed News Media Bargaining Code, in doing so lobbying the Australian government, serves to highlight the unequal bargaining position of online platforms and their extensive influence.
Furthermore, Twitter permanently suspending then US President Donald Trump highlighted the ability of a platform to operate at the highest levels as arbiters of free speech.
It serves to bring into sharp relief the need for proper safeguards and guidelines of, as the Report states, private companies who “wield power… comparable to that of governments”.
As arbiters of free speech companies such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter hold substantive sway over millions of conversations where the rights of free speech and those of privacy intersect. This Report is a welcome examination of the coming reforms in the Online Safety Bill through a lens of safeguarding free speech.
It argues that enforcement of free speech rights have been “questionable, inconsistent and problematic” across the platforms. It goes on to opine that such platforms need to mirror the rule of law and reflect human rights principles.
As English law moves to take the next step in regulating the activities of those online via the Online Safety Bill TPP with be reporting focusing on both sides of the free speech and privacy debate.