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Online harms: legislation will put UK businesses under pressure and threatens major reverse in liberalisation of censorship laws

Published on 17 February 2020

Broad and far-reaching plans to tackle so-called 'online harms', announced today by the Government, will introduce fresh red tape and put added pressure on many UK businesses, says RPC, the City-headquartered law firm.

  • The impact on businesses is being underplayed

Nicola Cain, Partner at RPC says: “The new legislation will place a much bigger burden on smaller companies who will be forced to recruit extra staff and put in place policies which could monitor for inappropriate content posted on their sites.” 

“Whilst the Government seeks to defend this legislation by saying that less than 5% of all UK businesses will fall under the new legislation, in reality it will not just be social media platforms and content providers, but most businesses with a website, including retailers and ecommerce sites, that will be affected to some degree.”

"Even for internet giants, that already have well-established procedures in place, these reforms will potentially remove crucial legal protections, requiring them to be far more pro-active in removing content and threatening freedom of expression."

RPC says that even after today’s announcement, what the Government defines as ‘online harm’ still remains unclear. 

Nicola Cain adds: “We should be wary of governments and regulators that seek the power to define and censor content that is not already illegal.”

"It will come as some small comfort that the Government has postponed its decision on whether to impose individual liability on company directors for failure to comply with its proposals".