Freedom of speech, the rule of law, and equal rights define us as a society, and I am determined to promote those values actively. But what is illegal offline is also illegal online, and I am absolutely clear that harassment and abuse in whatever form, and whoever the target, is totally unacceptable, and should be reported to the police.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) recognises the importance of the right of freedom of expression. The CPS seeks to balance the right to freedom of speech and expression with the duty of the state to act proportionately against those who wish to deepen and extend divisions in the social fabric of our nation. The public statements and the guidance are clear.
I have always believed that while the internet can be an open and vibrant mode of communication and conversation it can also be a source of great harm. The Government is fully committed to a free, open and secure internet and will ensure freedom of expression online is protected. The proposed Online Safety Bill aims to strengthen people’s rights to express themselves freely online and ensure social media companies are not removing legal free speech. For the first time, users will have the right to appeal if they feel their post has been taken down unfairly.
I know from discussions with my colleagues in Parliament that there is a problem with abuse directed at individuals. This is unacceptable and goes beyond free speech and free debate. Indeed, online abuse can corrode the very values on which British democracy rests.