In reaction to the moves by the Prime Minister at her speech in Manchester to announce a consultation for a new offence against online abuse Matt Kilcoyne, Head of Communications at the Adam Smith Institute, called out the dangers of doing so:
"Publish and be damned were the watchwords of our free press, it should be for individuals on social media too. We have laws that govern threats of violence and death threats, we have laws that can punish libelous and slanderous claims. We should be enforcing these existing laws better, not creating a new offence of abuse – an ambiguous term that could easily be used to shut down criticism in the name of being offended.
"This is something that the Lords’ Communications Committee confirmed when they, last year, said they were not persuaded it was necessary to create a new set of offences specifically for acts committed on social media. It is worrying the Prime Minister wants to override this advice in creating a new law to restrict free speech online.
"Social media companies that provide a platform should not held accountable for what users on their sites post, no more so than the Royal Parks are for the views of those at Speakers’ Corner. Facebook, Google and Twitter might be able to afford thousands of staff and millions of pounds to police their users' views to swiftly take down content, but such requirements create a significant barrier to entry and risks hurting disruptive start-ups. Treating platforms as publishers risks stifling innovation and competition as well as free speech."
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