Internet Matters response to the Online Harms White Paper

We welcome this consultation paper with its focus on proportionality and the evident care taken to balance the prevention of harms with the protection of free speech.  This is no easy task, and the debates will continue to rage on where this balance should lie.

We were pleased to see a focus on harms in the White Paper, as clarity around the issues and their scale is very helpful.  There is more work to do here, but this is a good start.

The impact of this White Paper and whatever flows from it has to be judged on whether more children can enjoy the benefits of the internet safely and securely.  Any proposals that drive children off the internet will be a manifest failure.

This White Paper focuses on what the tech companies can and should be doing.  That’s important.  Recognition should also be given to the reality that with harmful but legal content, the harm is dealt from one person (or group) to another.  In other words, it’s a behaviour, the scope and significance of which is amplified by technology. To achieve the objective of making the UK the safest place in the world to go online, we have to tackle the behavioural issues in our society that permit keyboard warriors and online bullies to say things from behind a screen that they wouldn’t own offline.   If this White Paper triggers the conversations that begins to deliver that change, it will make great progress.

Resources document

Visit the Gov.UK website to see a summary of the Online Harms White Paper which sets out the government’s plans for a world-leading package of measures to keep UK users safe online.

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