Prior restraint provisions in Online Safety Bill likely to unlawfully interfere with the right of freedom of expression


Dan Squires KC and Emma Foubister have drafted an Opinion for the Open Rights Group that explains the significant issues with the clause in the Bill that requires social media platforms to proactively screen users’ content and block anything deemed illegal.

The Opinion says that the Bill, if enacted in its current form, will represent a sea change in the way public communication and debate are regulated in this country. It risks fundamental encroachments into the rights of freedom of expression to impart and receive information. The Bill will require prior restraint on freedom of expression which will occur through the use by private companies of proprietorial and unpublished processes. There is no requirement in the Bill for users to be notified that their content has been blocked, let alone provided with reasons for the blocking. The advice suggest the proposals in the Bill will give rise to interference with freedom of expression in ways that are unforeseeable and unpredictable and through entirely opaque processes, and in ways which risk discriminating against minority religious or racial groups.

Open Rights Group’s press release and the Opinion can be found here.