Clause 20 - Duties about freedom of expression and privacy

Part of Online Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 4:00 pm on 13 December 2022.

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Photo of Paul Scully Paul Scully The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport 4:00, 13 December 2022

I will be brief. The rights to freedom of expression and privacy are essential to our democracy. We have long been clear that the Bill must not interfere with those rights. The amendments will further strengthen protections for freedom of expression and privacy and ensure consistency in the Bill. They require regulated user-to-user and search services to have particular regard to freedom of expression and privacy when deciding on and implementing their safety measures and policy.

Amendments 28, 29 and 31 mean that service providers will need to thoroughly consider the impact that their safety and user empowerment measures have on users’ freedom of expression and privacy. That could mean, for example, providing detailed guidance and training for human reviewers about content that is particularly difficult to assess. Amendments 36 and 37 apply that to search services in relation to their safety duties. Ofcom can take enforcement action against services that fail to comply with those duties and will set out steps that platforms can take to safeguard freedom of expression and privacy in their codes of practice.

Those changes will not detract from platforms’ illegal content and child protection duties. Companies must tackle illegal content and ensure that children are protected on their services, but the amendments will protect against platforms taking an over-zealous approach to removing content or undermining users’ privacy when complying with their duties. Amendments 38 and 40 ensure that the rest of the Bill is consistent with those changes. The new duties will therefore ensure that companies give proper consideration to users’ rights when complying with them, and that that is reflected in Ofcom’s codes, providing greater clarity to companies.