Insights House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee publishes report on freedom of expression online


The House of Lords Communications and Digital Committee has published its report: “Freedom for all? Freedom of expression in the digital age”. The Committee says that the Government’s plans to address “legal but harmful” online content threaten freedom of speech and would be ineffective. Instead, existing laws should be enforced properly and any serious harms not already illegal should be criminalised.

The Committee welcomes the Government’s Online Safety Bill proposals to oblige digital platforms to remove illegal content and protect children from harm, but warns that the draft legislation is “flawed” in relation to keeping children off porn sites and says that platforms must ensure they do not over-remove content.

Lord Gilbert of Panteg, Chair of the Committee said:

“If the government believes that a type of content is sufficiently harmful, it should be criminalised. We would expect this to include, for example, any of the vile racist abuse directed at members of the England football team which isn’t already illegal. It has no place in our society and the full force of the law must be brought down on the perpetrators urgently.

“The right to speak your mind is the hallmark of a free society and a right long treasured in Britain but it isn’t an unfettered right.

“The rights and preferences of individuals must be at the heart of a new, joined-up regulatory approach, bringing together competition policy, data, design, law enforcement and the protection of children.” To read the Committee’s news release in full and for access to the full report, click here.