‘Hate Speech and the Online Safety Bill: Ensuring Consistency with Core International Human Rights Instruments’, September 2021, by Talita Dias.

Just Speech
9 November, 2021

Evidence Submission: Online safety and online harms, House of Commons, Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Sub-committee on Online Harms and Disinformation.

Executive summary 

  • As it currently stands, the Online Safety Bill is not fully aligned with the United Kingdom’s obligations to protect individuals from violence and discrimination arising from certain online hate speech acts, as well as to safeguard users’ freedom of expression under core international human rights instruments.
  • Omissions regarding the types of content falling within the scope of Sections 41, 45 and 46 of the Bill should be addressed to give full effect to those international obligations. Notably, the Bill ought to distinguish between criminal and non-criminal speech acts falling within the category of ‘illegal content’, clearly define what online hate speech acts are illegal, and further specify the definition of content harmful to adults and children.
  • Omissions concerning the types of measures that in-scope service providers must adopt to discharge their safety duties under Sections 9-11 and 21-22 of the Bill should be remedied to afford the necessary protection to children and adults against online hate speech whilst giving providers and users sufficient notice of limitations to relevant speech acts. In particular, the Bill ought to lay down and clearly define what restrictive measures in addition to content takedowns providers may or must implement to discharge their safety duties.
  • Clear definitions of both speech acts and restrictive measures, in line with the requirements of legitimacy, legality, necessity and proportionality, are the only way to ensure that victims are protected against discrimination, violence and harm, whilst safeguarding users’ right to freedom of expression.

The full evidence submission is available here.

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