Written evidence submitted by Mrs Friese Peach (OSB0002)
I beg you to please scrap this bill immediately.
The online safety bill will allow the government to pressure private businesses into censoring lawful but harmful speech. The definition of harmful speech is intentionally vague, and would allow the government to ban anything it so deems to be harmful. Political debate, jokes, song lyrics and movie quotes will be taken out of context then purged and criminalised. Opposition to the government will eventually follow.
Private businesses will be fearful of fines and prosecution, so will over-censor to be on the safe side, making this tyranny even worse. This is a disastrous precedent that will exponentially ramp up government and private suppression of free speech and free debate. The fact that lawful speech is considered worthy of censorship at all is disgusting and not fit for discussion in a liberal democracy. Online speech must be protected not regulated, it is our human right to speak our minds. The government has no right to police the internet to find legal speech they don’t agree with and then take away that persons right to say it, or coerce private businesses into purging it themselves.
Our country is heading down a very dark path, where the protected human rights of free speech, expression, association and religion are considered worthless and are wantonly trampled upon by the state. As with all authoritarian speech laws, the scope of the censorship is always far larger than originally promised, due to the intentionally vague and open-ended language used in the legislation.
Minority groups within our society are always the hardest hit by blanket authoritarianism, so will find their already marginalised voices silenced further. The only way to police the vast amount of social media messages is to use algorithms, which can’t understand context or nuance and will blanket ban anything and everything just to be sure. The government wants to create a digital police state that blackmails private companies into tracking, monitoring and scrubbing the free and lawful speech that is exercised on their platforms. Is this the sort of society you want to live in? Constantly walking on eggshells with a faceless, nameless, bureaucratic Sword of Damocles hanging above your head, waiting for you to step out of line and say something the government deems to be wrong-think, with no appeal process nor consideration of your liberty and freedom that we as Britons are supposed to inalienably posses.
The free and open exchange of ideas is the cornerstone of our democracy. Without it we slip further into tyranny and misery. In this instance, the government wants to obliterate that cornerstone completely. The excuse of keeping children safe has been used many times over the decades by governments to strip its citizens of their rights. It is the parents responsibility to regulate their children's internet access. The government has no right to be the Big Brother of everybody's children. They do not know or care what is best for children, all the government wants is more power to control, silence and oppress those they do not like or agree with.
Why can't the government stay out of our business and leave us alone, instead of trying to micromanage and control every aspect of our lives? We do not have freedom any more in our country. It is depressing to see how far we have deviated from the founding principles that brought democracy and equality to the world.
For the love of God and our fundamental British values, please wipe this evil legislation from the face of the earth, and ensure we never again have to discuss the censorship and purging of LEGAL activity, no matter how much bad faith politicians try to label that lawful activity as "harmful".