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14 August 2023

Online Safety Bill screening measures could amount to ‘prior restraint’ on freedom of expression

2 mins

The legal opinion, produced for Open Rights Group, examines Clause 9(2) of the Bill, which would require social media platforms to proactively screen their users’ content and prevent them from seeing anything deemed illegal. The legal advice suggests this would give rise to interference with freedom of expression in ways that are ‘unforeseeable and unpredictable’, which in turn poses a threat of breaching international human rights law. There is no requirement within the Bill for social media users to be notified that their content has been blocked, nor provided with reasons for the blocking. If enacted in its current form, the Opinion states that the Bill will represent a sea change in the way public communication and debate are regulated in this country, as the imparting and sharing of knowledge, opinions, and content will be censored like never before.

Axel Landin, Associate in the Media and Information team at Bindmans LLP, who conducted the initial research and analysis of the Bill, comments:

This opinion is a hugely important piece of public advocacy, coming at a time when the Online Safety Bill is under scrutiny by Parliament. There are significant legal issues presented by the Bill in its present form and we are pleased to have worked with Dan and Emma, on behalf of the Open Rights Group, to highlight them.

The Opinion can be read in full on the Open Rights Group website here.

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