Internet Censorship in the United Kingdom: National Schemes and European Norms
Chapter in Lilian Edwards (ed), Law, Policy and the Internet (Hart Publishing, 2018 Forthcoming)
36 Pages Posted: 6 Jun 2018
Date Written: March 18, 2018
The United Kingdom (UK) has been at the vanguard of online censorship in democracies from the beginning of the modern internet. Since the mid-1990s the government has developed distinctive patterns of regulation – targeting intermediaries, using the bully pulpit to promote ‘voluntary’ self-regulation, and promoting automated censorship tools such as web blocking – which have been influential internationally but raise significant issues of legitimacy, transparency and accountability. This chapter examines this UK experience in light of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and EU law, arguing that in key regards current censorship practices fail to meet European standards.
The chapter builds on the existing literature in two main ways. First, it assesses emerging censorship practices in the area of terrorist material and extreme pornography. Second, it considers how recent EU legislation and ECtHR case law might constrain the freedom of the UK government and force a move towards different models of censorship.
The chapter starts by outlining the regulatory context. It then takes three case studies – Child Abuse Material (CAM), terrorist material, and pornography/extreme pornography under the Digital Economy Act 2017 – and traces how censorship has evolved from one context to the next. These systems are then evaluated against the standards set by European law and in particular Articles 6 and 10 ECHR, the Open Internet Regulation, and the Directives on Sexual Abuse of Children and on Combating Terrorism.
Keywords: internet, censorship, pornography, extreme pornography, child abuse images, Internet Watch Foundation, IWF, terrorism, blocking, filtering, privacy
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