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Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law

Thursday, 21 January 2021

David Erdos giving evidenceOn 19 January Dr David Erdos, Deputy Director of the Faculty’s Centre for Intellectual Property and Information Law, spoke at an evidence session of the House of Lords’ Communications and Digital Committee on the future of freedom of expression online.  The session was part of the Committee’s current Inquiry on this subject and took place in the context of the UK Government’s plans for a new law on online harms which it intends to submit to Parliament in 2021.  Dr Edina Harbinja of the University of Aston also gave evidence.

Whilst focused on privacy and data protection, the session’s themes were wide-ranging.  David’s answers explored the need a liberal and responsible framework for expression online and the challenges posed both by emerging actors including both platforms and amateur individuals and new rationales for highly impactful expressive activities which might not focus principally on contributing to public interest discussion.  As well as addressing the particular challenges of (pseudo)anonymous expression, David also argued that the way platforms commodify users’ expressive activity through surveillance and enable this to be predicated and even manipulated for commercial ends (notably by AdTech) posed challenges for the enjoyment of privacy and even expression itself.  He argued that it was not so much that the law in this area was unduly lax but the there was often an absence of effective regulation online and that this was a crucial issue which demanded more attention.

The session is available to stream on the UK Parliament’s website.