published Sat May 13 2023
As a political party that champions digital rights and free expression, the Pirate Party UK is deeply concerned about the Online Safety Bill currently under consideration by the House of Lords. We stand with organizations such as EFF, Open Rights Group, Wikimedia UK, and Index on Censorship, who have raised serious concerns about the impact of this legislation on fundamental rights such as the right to privacy and free speech.
We believe that Clause 110 of the bill, which requires websites and apps to proactively prevent harmful content from appearing on messaging services, is particularly problematic. It would require the screening of all user content, which is incompatible with encryption and privacy rights. The mandatory scanning of private conversations interferes with our right to have a private conversation, and could lead to a chilling effect on free expression.
Moreover, the use of algorithms for screening content could result in content being removed without proper context, infringing on our right to free speech online. This is particularly concerning when considering the potential for prior restraint of lawful speech, where algorithmic screening would be done before content is even uploaded, effectively censoring lawful and valuable expression.
We strongly believe that mandated scanning obligations will inevitably lead to censorship of lawful and valuable expression. As a party that values digital rights and free expression, the Pirate Party UK calls on the Lords to take these concerns seriously and ensure that any amendments made to the bill strike a balance between protecting fundamental rights and promoting online safety. We believe that it is possible to protect the safety of users online without infringing on their privacy or restricting their right to free expression.
While we are not directly involved in the legislative process, we support the efforts of organizations such as EFF, Open Rights Group, Wikimedia UK, and Index on Censorship to raise concerns about the bill and protect fundamental rights such as privacy and free speech. We call on the Lords to take these concerns seriously and ensure that the Online Safety Bill protects the privacy rights of citizens online, while also safeguarding free expression and digital rights.