Democracy & Elections

The Lawfare Podcast: What’s in the U.K. Online Safety Bill?

Jen Patja, Evelyn Douek, Quinta Jurecic, Ellen Judson
Thursday, March 31, 2022, 12:00 PM

Published by The Lawfare Institute
in Cooperation With

This week on Arbiters of Truth, our series on the online information environment, we’re turning our attention to the United Kingdom, where the government has just introduced into Parliament a broad proposal for regulating the internet: the Online Safety Bill. The U.K. government has proclaimed that the Bill represents new “world-first online safety laws” and includes “tougher and quicker criminal sanctions for tech bosses.” So … what would it actually do?

To answer this question, Evelyn Douek and Quinta Jurecic spoke with Ellen Judson, a senior researcher at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos, a U.K. think tank. Ellen has been closely tracking the legislation as it has developed. And she helped walk us through the tangled system of regulations created by the bill. What new obligations does the Online Safety Bill create, and what companies would those obligations apply to? Why is the answer to so many questions “yet to be defined”—a phrase we kept saying again and again throughout the show—and how much of the legislation is just punting the really difficult questions for another day? What happens now that the bill has been formally introduced in Parliament?

Jen Patja is the editor and producer of The Lawfare Podcast and Rational Security. She currently serves as the Co-Executive Director of Virginia Civics, a nonprofit organization that empowers the next generation of leaders in Virginia by promoting constitutional literacy, critical thinking, and civic engagement. She is the former Deputy Director of the Robert H. Smith Center for the Constitution at James Madison's Montpelier and has been a freelance editor for over 20 years.
Evelyn Douek is an Assistant Professor of Law at Stanford Law School and Senior Research Fellow at the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University. She holds a doctorate from Harvard Law School on the topic of private and public regulation of online speech. Prior to attending HLS, Evelyn was an Associate (clerk) to the Honourable Chief Justice Susan Kiefel of the High Court of Australia. She received her LL.B. from UNSW Sydney, where she was Executive Editor of the UNSW Law Journal.
Quinta Jurecic is a fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution and a senior editor at Lawfare. She previously served as Lawfare's managing editor and as an editorial writer for the Washington Post.
Ellen Judson is a senior researcher at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos, a U.K. think tank.

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