Privacy International’s Response to the UK's Open Consultation on the Online Harms White Paper

Online harms

In April, the UK government published what it called "plans for a world-leading package of online safety measures that also supports innovation and a thriving digital economy".

The White Paper which sets out plans for establishing in law a new duty of care towards users, overseen by a new regulatory body, aimed at making companies more accountable when it comes to illegal activity and content deemed "harmful", but not illegal.

As part of the plans, a public consultation was launched.

While Privacy International ("PI") welcomes the UK government's commitment to investigating and holding companies to account, when it comes to regulating the internet in the expansive way described in the White Paper, we suggest moving with care. Failure to do so could introduce, rather than reduce, "online harms".

PI is concerned about both the tone and the proposals put forward in the Online Harms White Paper. Rather than seeking to review and strengthen existing efforts to challenge and limit the data exploitation that has become embedded in our online experience, the Paper includes broad and vague new proposals. Some of those proposals risk undermining human rights, in particular the rights to privacy and freedom of expression. If the scheme proposed in the White Paper is taken forward, there is a risk that the approach will ultimately cause more harm without making headway with the problems identified, many of which are societal in nature and require more detailed and context-specific responses.

You can read Privacy International's full response in the attached document.