Online law 'must not restrict free speech', ex-culture secretary says

Former Culture Secretary John Whittingdale fears proposed new online protection laws could do more harm than good

  • John Whittingdale warned politicians must be ‘terribly careful’ about online laws
  • Conservative candidate warned overzealous rules could impact free expression
  • Mr Whittingdale said whichever party won power faced ‘very serious challenges’

Former culture secretary John Whittingdale has warned that politicians must be ‘terribly careful’ about bringing in new online protection laws

Former culture secretary John Whittingdale has warned that politicians must be ‘terribly careful’ about bringing in new online protection laws, saying they could do more harm than good.

The Conservative candidate, who has chaired the all-party parliamentary group on media freedom, warned that overzealous rules could impact on freedom of expression.

Earlier this year the Government faced claims that its Online Harms White Paper might lead to totalitarian-style censorship.

The plans included setting up a watchdog that could block websites if they did not stick to the rules.

But speaking at the Society of Editors conference on Tuesday, Mr Whittingdale said that whichever party won power faced ‘very serious challenges’ about getting the balance right. He said the plans in the white paper were ‘drawn in very broad terms’ and could apply to publications that were not intended to be covered by them.

The proposals were meant to address internet safety fears, but sparked concerns they would end up damaging Press freedom.

Mr Whittingdale said: ‘We’ve had some terrible incidents of people being groomed online or people finding out how to harm themselves, the spread of child abuse images.

‘All these things need to be tackled, but at the same time you always need to bear in mind freedom of expression. 

‘Sometimes it means saying look these are things we don’t like but actually some of the measures that are being proposed to counter them are more harmful.

‘I try to provide that counter balance against the sometimes rather hysterical pressure that Government must step in and immediately appoint new regulators to control the spread of information.’

Source: Read Full Article