Censorship Concerns Over UK Plan to End People-Smuggling on Social Media
January 20, 2023
Cited article by Dan Milmo and Rajeev Syal, The Guardian
HRRC warns against the censorship of online posts about refugees attempting to enter UK and other countries. While addressing online people-smuggling is a valid concern, requiring tech firms like TikTok to censor posts pertaining to illegal crossings can lead to overzealous action, potentially censoring positive posts on refugees and awareness. Further, this is an infringement upon freedom of speech.
The UK is currently proposing an online safety bill to ensure that social media companies take a more proactive approach to addressing people-smuggling on their platforms. Part of this bill would force companies to remove videos of people crossing the English Channel, even in a "positive light". Both a refugee charity and a free speech campaign group raised concerns that this measure could be used to censor lawful footage documenting the ordeal of refugees attempting to enter the UK.
Refugees who risk crossing the Channel often make this decision under duress in a life or death situation, and documenting these crossing is necessary to publicize the need for support and resources. The organizations who support refugees state that the desperate situations motivating people to attempt crossing won't be hindered by banning these videos on social media. Despite this, the government believes deleting these videos would reduce knowledge on illegal routes into the country.