In a sign of the anti-woke, pro-free speech agenda breaking through in the Conservative leadership race, leading candidate Liz Truss pledged to ensure free speech does not have fewer protections online than offline. On GB News she responded to a question about the Online Safety Bill saying:
I very strongly agree with you, where it’s about adults being able to speak freely, they absolutely should be. It should be the same online as offline. That’s a really important principle. I’ll make sure that the Online Safety Bill does reflect that.
She also confirmed that anti-woke warrior Kemi Badenoch would be in her Cabinet. Calvin Robinson tweeted: “In a @GBNEWS exclusive, Liz Truss commits to having Kemi Badenoch in her cabinet. This will come as welcome news to a majority of the membership. A smart move.”
Truss’s statements about changing the Online Safety Bill to protect online speech are welcome. But are they enough?
The Online Safety Bill still has the potential to place serious constraints on online speech. Critics have warned that even the protections for children may be used as an opportunity for wider censorship – after all, how do you police whether it’s a child who is viewing something without putting up invasive identity checks all over the internet?
The Government states that “platforms likely to be accessed by children will also have a duty to protect young people using their services from legal but harmful material such as self-harm or eating disorder content”. It doesn’t explain how they will do that without bringing in considerable amounts of censorship and registration requirements.
Platforms will also “have to address named categories of legal but harmful material accessed by adults, likely to include issues such as abuse, harassment, or exposure to content encouraging self-harm or eating disorders”. They will also “have a duty to bring in user empowerment tools, giving adult users more control over whom they interact with and the legal content they see, as well as the option to verify their identity”.
Such measures will greatly reduce the freedom of the internet. The Government appears oddly oblivious to the fact that ‘abuse’ and ‘harassment’ are wedge terms weaponised by woke activists to close down any non-woke discourse they disagree with. Websites under threat of considerable sanctions will err on the side of caution and remove anything the wokesters whine about.
The Government claims that “freedom of expression will be protected because these laws are not about imposing excessive regulation or state removal of content, but ensuring that companies have the systems and processes in place to ensure users’ safety” (emphasis mine). ‘Excessive’ is subjective, and it is obviously missing the point to claim freedom of expression is safeguarded simply because the state requires companies to do the censoring on its behalf.
The sentiments Liz Truss has expressed are fine as far as they go. But there’s a lot more to be done to neutralise the looming threat from the Online Censorship Bill.