British politicians on a committee discussing the UK government’s proposed internet safety bill attempted to add an amendment to include “misinformation and health-related misinformation” as a recognized form of legal but “harmful” speech.

14 June Conservative Minister Chris Philp said that the government would not support the amendment, albeit in accordance with “the intent behind the amendment”.

“We agree with the intention of the amendment. However, the way to deal with this is not to randomly add a clause to a bill and leave the rest up to regulation. While fighting misinformation and especially harmful misinformation can be important and beneficial, there are many other important things that can be added that are legal but harmful to adults, so we will not accept this amendment,” Philp said. .

Social media platforms are expected to be forced to remove content deemed harmful in a wide-ranging internet safety bill, as well as to protect free speech.

John Nicholson and Kirsty Blackman of the SNP and Alex Davies-Jones and Barbara Keel of the Labor Party added an amendment stating that the bill “must include content containing misinformation and health-related misinformation if such content is harmful to adults” .

In 2020, during the pandemic, Labor called for emergency laws to “root dangerous” anti-vaccine content online.

Recording in PastureMark Johnson, legal and policy officer for free speech watchdog Big Brother Watch, warned that adding “health misinformation” to the internet safety bill as a category of legal but “harmful” speech “threatens to open a Pandora’s box of censorship.” “.

He noted that the medical consensus is changing dramatically, citing a high-profile example when Facebook fact-checkers discredited an article in The Spectator written by Oxford academic Carl Heneghan that challenged the effectiveness of masks.

At the time, Toby Young, assistant editor of The Spectator and general secretary of the Free Speech Union, said Maajid Nawaz on LBC that Facebook is being “captious and authoritarian”.

“The terms ‘disinformation’ and ‘disinformation’ have become part of the political lexicon in recent years,” Johnson said. “Concepts of wrongness or misleading were left to alternative terms with loaded connotations.”

“However, these are malleable terms, often used to discredit or silence another person’s argument in public debate,” he added.

Philp said the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports (DCMS) — the department responsible for the bill — is working to “develop a proactive operational response to this issue.”

“We have created a Disinformation Unit within DCMS that is tasked with identifying disinformation and working with social media companies to address it,” he added.

A DCMS spokesperson told The Epoch Times that the bill “won’t stifle rights and freedoms online.”

“While the companies within the scope will have to fight criminal activity and protect children, nothing in the bill requires them to remove or moderate legal content that adults have access to,” he said.

“The bill includes strong and targeted guarantees for freedom of speech, political debate and journalism. We will ensure that users can appeal the wrongful removal of content,” he added.

In May, leading media law expert Gavin Millar QC wrote in a legal opinion from the Freedom of Expression Campaign group Index on Censorship that everyone using the internet would be affected by the upcoming UK government internet safety bill and that it will significantly restrict freedom of expression in a way that has profound implications.

“One misinterpreted post or an overzealous algorithm can have serious repercussions on how UK citizens connect with friends and family and keep precious memories,” Millar said.

Lily Zhou contributed to the report.

Owen Evans

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Owen Evans is a British journalist covering a wide range of national stories, with a focus on civil liberties and free speech.

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