On the 8th of April 2019, the UK Government proposed the Online Harms White Paper to Parliament. With evidence that shows that there is a growth in harmful material being posted and circulated online, the proposition of a new law specifically designed to counter this is very much welcome, or so you would think.
While there is growing concern over the harmful material found online, the fear of something new brought about by this law’s very proposal is also to be expected. Not only does it infringe on a person’s freedom, it’s also, quite frankly, explained vaguely. Laws that impede on freedoms will always give rise to public concern. (If it doesn’t, then we’re sorry.) As such, although this bill is being proposed to protect UK citizens from online harm, people are still afraid of this because in order to achieve what this sets out to do would require limiting certain freedoms.
Dichotomy Resolution: Freedom and Limitation
The Online Harms White Paper plans to establish a regulator whose role is to create, implement, and enforce regulations on companies with platforms that allow users to share or discover content from other users or allow interaction between users online. It may seem like it doesn’t concern individuals, but the root of the matter is that these regulations imposed on the companies are there to make sure they have a standardized set of rules in place to implement and enforce on the users and their usage of the platform. As such, it is understandable why many are hesitant in accepting this bill.
This occurrence of limiting, however, is not a bad thing, at least, it isn’t supposed to be taken as such. Neither the intent nor execution of this proposal is any different from how things are done in current laws today. Most laws that aim to protect have always functioned in this way. In order to protect freedom, the law needs to limit it. It’s a weird condition but dichotomy resolution really is how the law works. Limited and free are opposing states but a great many intelligent individuals from who knows what time found that when you combine and find the harmony in working these two opposing states, solutions, standards and regulations for everyday life can be made.
Article 10 of the Human Rights Act of 1998 states that, “Everyone has the right to freedom of expression.” However, in the succeeding paragraph of the same article, it states that this freedom has duties and responsibilities. It is subject to several regulations, penalties and etc. for the sake of protecting society, national security, public safety and the rights of others among many others in the list. The Online Harms White Paper proposes to protect through this type of “limiting” or so we hope to believe from as much as we have gathered, which leads to the next point. What cannot be understood will at most evoke fear.
Unfamiliarity Incites Fear
Fear can be brought about by a great number of causes but to be more precise, we will be discussing fear caused by the unknown or something new. Let’s talk about dogs for example. If you’ve raised your dog in a house with two floors but have never allowed them up the second, they’ll grow with no knowledge of what the second floor has in store for them. If you were to one day bring them up there, you would see them adopt a more cautious stance. Their tails hang down low and their body stays close to the ground as they explore their new surroundings.
Just like any other animal, unfamiliar objects or matters we may mistake to be unfamiliar can scare us. This fear comes in different degrees depending on what new thing a person may be concerning themselves with. It can be brought about by a new boss, new experience, new food or, in this case, a soon-to-be law, and it’s completely valid.
The Government has its goals in mind, and its heart in the right place in wanting to lessen even the most “minimal” of harms done to individuals. However, the fact that this has yet to be completely fleshed out is concerning. As such, the reactions that people have regarding this proposal is not unprecedented. It only shows that those affected are concerned about how things are run where they live.
This has only been proposed to Parliament. Revisions, additions, and omissions will more than likely be needed before this were to be put into action. As such, while it is something to be reasonably afraid of and concerned with, a final draft and decision has yet to be made to facilitate this White Paper’s introduction into the legal system for good. Be reasonably concerned but don’t count this out right off the bat.
If you still have questions about the Online Harms White Paper or you need any legal advice, Linkilaw’s here to answer your questions! Book a consultation with our legal team and we’ll help you!