The UK government Monday opted against a ban on “legal but harmful” content in its Online Safety Bill in response to backlash over free speech on social media, especially Twitter. Social media companies will now be under no obligation to remove legal content that may cause harm, such as content that promotes eating disorders and self-harm. In a press release, the government stated that the removal of these provisions will allow for “new duties to boost free speech and increase accountability of tech firms.”
The provisions will reportedly be replaced by the “consumer friendly” new approach of a “triple shield,” forcing internet companies such as Facebook and Twitter to give adults greater control over the content they see and interact with. Examples included systems of human content moderation and warning screens in front of sensitive content.
This move was an attempt by the government to refocus the bill on its original aims, described as:
[T]he pressing need to protect children and tackle criminal activity online while preserving free speech, ensuring tech firms are accountable to their users, and empowering adults to make more informed choices about the platforms they use.
The new version of the bill places a greater focus on the protection of children especially, as new polling from Ipsos shows that 83 percent of people think that social media companies should have a duty to protect children who are using their platforms. The bill would make large social media companies publish a “summary of their risk assessments” concerning the dangers their platform poses to children. It also gives Ofcom the power to require these companies to “publish details of enforcement action it takes” against dangers.