“Suicide content helps users express themselves,” Molly Russell told Meta in an investigation

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Tory colleagues say social networks should not be forced to remove “legal but harmful content”

The The draft law on online security must remove restrictions on “legal but harmful” content to protect free speech on social media, conservative colleagues say.

Lord Frost, the former Brexit secretary, welcomed ministers’ pledges to “tweak” the law, which he claimed was “frighteningly illiberal”, but said it must include “at the very least” removing plans that force social security companies media to remove “legal but harmful” content.

Lord Frost, a former cabinet minister backed by Lords Moylan, Strathcarron and Baroness Stowell, said: “As things stand, the Bill would see companies like Meta implement dangerously vague requests to remove harmful content on their platforms.

“The Secretary of State would also be empowered to determine what such material is in future, with only minimal involvement from Parliament.

“The law must protect the concept that most people take for granted, that if you can say something in the real world, you should be able to say it online. If it’s legal to say, it must be legal to type.”

Peers are afraid of it freedom of speech could be restricted as social media companies could censor content using “woke” biases or algorithms.

Freedom of speech

Their warning, backed by former Supreme Court judge Lord Sumption, comes as the Index on Censorship, a free-speech organisation, has drawn up a series of changes to protect free speech.

In addition to deleting Article 13 of the bill, which combats “legal but harmful” content, the Censorship Index also proposes narrowing the definition of “illegal” to protect against algorithms that censor content that could threaten free speech.

It also proposed protections for end-to-end encrypted communications, saying any monitoring of private messages could expose users to backdoor intrusions and leave the UK vulnerable to cyber attacks.

Lord Sumption said: “This is a serious and constructive proposal to amend the more controversial parts of this controversial bill. It would be good if the government took this into consideration.

Lord Moylan said: “It needs a radical overhaul to ensure it does not create any new restrictions on freedom of expression or give power to large unregulated corporations.”

Baroness Stowell said: “It is crucial that the draft law on online security has been amended so we can quickly implement much-needed online protections for our children without compromising the principle of free speech for adults.”

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