The U.K. Online Harms White Paper and the Internet’s Cable-ized Future

Ohio State Tech. L.J., Forthcoming

12 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2019 Last revised: 1 Jun 2020

See all articles by Eric Goldman

Eric Goldman

Santa Clara University - School of Law

Date Written: 2019


In April 2019, the U.K. released a white paper about Online Harms. The White Paper proposes to take Internet censorship to a new height, essentially unmatched by any other Western democracy. It’s a sign of how comprehensive censorship has moved beyond repressive regimes to become trendy even in leading republican democracies.

To redress a wide range of anti-social online activity, the White Paper seeks to tightly circumscribe user-generated content — so tightly that only a small number Internet giants will be able to profitably publish user-generated content. Other Internet publishers will be pushed towards licensing professional content and cover those costs by charging subscriber fees to consumers. Thus, the White Paper will produce a reconfigured Internet 3.0 that will resemble the cable TV industry, not the current Internet we know and love.

This essay addresses three main points. It first deconstructs the some of the “facts” the White Paper uses to justify its censorious ideas. Then it highlights some of the proposals’ worst policy aspects. The essay concludes by explaining how the White Paper will reshape the Internet and kill off most user-generated content.

Keywords: ugc, user-generated content, intermediary liability, section 230, 47 usc 230, online harms, censorship, duty of care

JEL Classification: F1, K4

Suggested Citation

Goldman, Eric, The U.K. Online Harms White Paper and the Internet’s Cable-ized Future (2019). Ohio State Tech. L.J., Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: or

Eric Goldman (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University - School of Law ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States
408-554-4369 (Phone)


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