Department of Political Science


Policy & Practice: Governing Online Speech: Is the Online Safety Bill the Answer?

15 December 2022, 6:15 pm–7:30 pm

Image shows someone holding a mobile phone with a social media likes icon above

Part of our weekly Policy and Practice seminar series

Event Information

Open to





Eleanor Kingwell-Banham


Gustave Tuck Lecture Theatre
Gower Street
United Kingdom

In recent years, speech inciting hatred, peddling dissemination, and encouraging self-harm has proliferated on social-media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, prompting calls for regulation to force platforms to tackle these challenges more aggressively. One of the most ambitious proposals is the UK’s own Online Safety Bill, which looks likely to be passed (in some form) by the current government and will grant Ofcom substantial new powers over social media. Yet the Bill is highly controversial, prompting concerns over censorship of legitimate speech. What will this regulatory regime look like in practice? Will it effectively prevent harm? And is there merit to the concern that it will undermine free speech? To confront these issues and more, we are joined by leading experts and practitioners from academia, civil society, and Ofcom itself.
Tony Stower is an experienced public servant and is currently Principal, Online Safety Policy at Ofcom.
Maeve Walsh is a policy and government relations consultant with expertise in digital and health policy. A former civil servant with 17 years' experience in Whitehall, she has been an Associate with Carnegie UK since 2018 and is an advocate for legislation to prevent online harms.
Ruth Smeeth (Baroness Anderson of Stoke-on-Trent) is a British Labour Party politician who was the MP for Stoke-on-Trent North from 2015 until 2019. Since 2022 she has been a member of the House of Lords. In June 2020, she became chief executive of Index on Censorship, an organisation which campaigns for freedom of speech.
Edina Harbinja is Reader in Media/Privacy Law at Aston University. Her principal areas of research and teaching are related to the legal issues surrounding the internet and emerging technologies. She is a member of the Advisory Council at Open Rights Group, which aims to protect the digital rights of people in the UK, including privacy and free speech online.

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