Politics

Online Harms White Paper - Government Consultation - My response

I recently joined the Open Rights Group as a member and was asked to respond to the Governments Online Harms regulation plans within their open consultation which ends the 1st of July - Online Harms White Paper - Government Consultation 

Below is my response. Please do the same and keep the UK free from unelected regulators that could harm freeness of speech. 

While we all agree there is a need to tackle and deal with both illegal and harmful content online this must be put into the balance with our basic human rights of freedom of expression. 

Users of social media, blogging sites and sites that encourage this freedom of expression need to be able to defend their right to publish legal content. 

This issue with a regulatory framework, like the one you are suggesting, is that online companies will take the easy route to compliance. This is that they will create automated, indiscriminate algorithms and technology that just takes down content that 'might' fall under the online harms act. 

Whilst this might be fine for the clearly illegal content its the content that sits in the grey box of not being illegal but may cause harm. There is too much ambiguity here and with that, there is room for massive error and the closing down of legitimate content. 

Digital companies will take the easy route out as we see YouTube and others doing now when it comes to claims of Copyright. They do not contact the person being claimed against, they do not check the validity of the claim, they just delete the content, or de-monetise or de-platform the user. 

This can become a form of censorship that could mean individual users could get de-platformed for their point of view.  

Let's just look at the term 'disinformation' who defines what this is, is there a clear definition and who decides that boundary. We could say political propaganda and the PR business around it is 'disinformation'.

We also have to ask the question where is the task force to tackle those perpetrating the  'illegal harms'. 

This legislation seems tailored to tackling the platforms and the removal of content. But where are the plans to tackle those that are clearly committing illegal acts of harm?

My fear is also for those who unwittingly promote or forward on 'disinformation' as you will see if you read the demos report "Warring Songs: Information Operations in the Digital Age" shows how a)Fact checking alone is not enough as it only deals with a small % of the issue and b)people can unwittingly be drawn into promoting content from these Information Operations. These people could be de-platformed, silenced or censored which is an infringement of their human rights.

A quote from the Newstatesmen summaries it well "Disinformation is particularly blurry, and will likely prove contentious for a future regulator. The DCMS spells out some expectations, including “promoting authoritative news sources”, and suppressing content “disputed by reputable fact-checking services”.

How far should the government go in determining what fictions are acceptable? When does a legitimate hunch become a conspiracy theory? These are political questions that require considered – and democratic – responses. While the government’s move towards regulating the internet is a welcome step, there will be many who look at these proposals with justified suspicion."

The scheme pushes towards automated takedowns and speed, both of which are likely to come at the cost of accuracy. Accuracy is as important as removal for a scheme to be legitimate.

This process of using an Independent Regulator is also very questionable. They will not be elected but will have great power to decide what is free expressions it protects and what it restricts. This does not promote fair and accurate decisions. 

The UK does not, and should not, allow state regulation of the press, allowing them to freely challenge and comment on issues, why would we not allow the same freedoms to millions of citizens and their lawful online speech. 

Read more about Open Rights Group’s position here:
https://www.openrightsgroup.org/about/reports/org-policy-responses-to-online-harms-white-paper

View the full DCMS consultation:
https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/online-harms-white-paper

 

There is also no explanation as to how harms and risk are being defined which is a central question of the duty of care. This could be too wide and impact legitimate online speech.

The proposal is also unrealistically vast and broad which will make them almost impossible to implement without a scatter gun approach that forces companies to take down legitimate content with no route to complain by the user. A more focused rights-based approach on social media as promoted by the Open Rights Group makes more sense. 

Before going ahead with such a scheme there needs to be more public and industry consultation in order to facilitate discussions on a better way forward. 

Article written by Sam our Founder, Editor and Writer on Behavioural Insights, Media, Communications, Data Science & Marketing Technology. Keeping a watchful eye and investigating the misuse of technology and behavioural science by big business, media and politicians in manipulating online narratives to sway public opinion. All opinions are his own. :

All images on this site used under CC0 License
✓ Free for personal and commercial use
✓ No attribution required, however, we try to contribute to the artist if known.

Looking for more digital marketing advice? 

Looking for more articles like this? Join our social community today! We have a wealth of digital, direct and data-driven marketing content for people looking to shape change by setting up their own business, social enterprise or cause. Membership is free and all we ask in turn is that you be part of the conversation with an aim to shaping positive change in the world. 

Editorial Team published an article
How Advances in Data Storage Technology Can Save You Money
Data storage technology is an ever-advancing field that has given rise to all kinds of amazing products. From hard disk drives that can hold as much as a terabyte of data to brand new types…
Aug 3
Sam published an article
Herbal fat burners are fat burners made from natural herbs, spices, and vitamins to help promote weight loss. These can be blended together in a variety of ways. One such combination takes green tea extract and adds to it caffeine, orange peel, blac…
Jul 27
Sam posted a video
ORGCon is hosted by Open Rights Group (ORG). We challenge the government’s mass surveillance programme, protect free expression online and defend digital privacy.
start video around 32mins in as its a live stream recording 
Jul 16
Editorial Team published an article
Just how much do you know about chess? Did you know that it is one of the oldest games in world? Do you know where it came from? No one really knows for sure where chess originated. It was played centuries ago in China, India and Persia. In the eigh…
Jul 12
Sam published an article
For those people who are trying to lose weight, but want to do it with a more natural leaning, trying a green tea fat burner solution instead of the many prescription answers may just be on the right track. It is the polyphenols in tea that seem to…
Jul 8
Editorial Team published an article
How Data Solution Storage Can Work For You
Data solution storage is, quite possibly, the best way to ensure that your data does not get lost or is accidentally destroyed. Although computers are exceptionally reliable and cost-effective these days, r…
Jul 6
Editorial Team published an article
Bad Credit? Need a Car Loan?
So you've got bad credit and need a car loan. Life just getting in the way of the fun? Ever wish you'd won the lottery and could just forget about that ten-keg party you put on the ol' credit card as a gift to the frat h…
Jul 3
Editorial Team published an article
Anxiety Attack Symptom: Triggers of Stress
Stress and anxiety are considered to be the natural defense mechanisms of the body that are triggered off whenever we have to face an unpleasant situation. However, when these defense mechanisms take the fo…
Jul 1
Editorial Team published articles
Jun 30
Sam published an article
I recently joined the Open Rights Group as a member and was asked to respond to the Governments Online Harms regulation plans within their open consultation which ends the 1st of July - Online Harms White Paper - Government Consultation 
Below is my…
Jun 29
Editorial Team published an article
The beer bar neon sign has become as firmly ensconced in advertising as the television has in pop culture. Neon signs are the preferred advertising medium for bars, taverns, pubs, and restaurants. Hotels and entertainment venues capitalize on the vi…
Jun 28
Sam published an article
It’s all fake news anyway! 
Fake news is in the news. It's been headline activity ever since Trump helped propagate it within his ongoing media ramblings. Used now by him and his entourage of bewildered future inmates it has become a distraction tec…
Jun 23
Sam published an article
Pushing for a no deal Brexit is clearly Unpatriotic yet it seems like the mainstay of Brexiteers and Conservative Leadship Hopefuls?
Whether we voted to remain or leave, I voted to remain so let's get my position out there at the start, the fact rem…
Jun 16
Sam posted a video
As an established or new brand, we always seek new customers, and it’s becoming tougher and tougher to grow our customer base on the ultra-competitive social...
Jun 2
Editorial Team published an article
Why You Need to Get Your High Blood Pressure Under Control
A couple of decades ago, my grandfather died of complications as a result of high blood pressure, and unless you want to share his untimely fate, I suggest you pay attention as to why your b…
May 26
Editorial Team published articles
May 25
More…