Who will keep us safe from the Online Safety Bill?


"Right. Who put sulphuric acid in the blackboard chalk box? No-one? Well in that case, you're all in detention until the culprit owns up."


Throughout my life I have despised teachers (and others) who lazily inflict blanket punishments on the majority of law-abiding citizens instead of targeting those deserving of that punishment.


It happens in every part of life. Rather than target those who drive dangerously, councils and police put in more speed cameras. They have little impact on boy racers, but punish pensioners for accidentally travelling a few miles per hour above the speed limit (whilst making quite a lot of money in fines which, of course, is not intentional at all).


The knee-jerk reaction of organisations to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse has been to introduce ever more administrative hurdles and checks for those who would never dream of harming a child. Meanwhile, child abusers continue to circumvent such checks and get away with it.


Because some people like to steal things from shops, we now have more CCTV cameras in the UK than anywhere else in the world. Soon, we will all have our driving licence photos checked by facial recognition and there will be no privacy for anyone, regardless of guilt or innocence.


Because some men are rapists, all men are now prevented even from complimenting a woman on her appearance or asking her out on a date.


The list goes on.


And now: the Online Safety Bill. Because some people cannot be trusted to express themselves with civility and manners, the ability of us all to discuss our views online is to be curtailed.


Most disgraceful of all, it is a Conservative government - a party which is supposed to stand for the small state, the free market, and freedom of speech - which is introducing it.


The Bill creates a new definition of speech which is "legal but harmful". Well, either it's legal or it isn't. If it's legal, I'm entitled to say it.


We've already seen the 'cancellation' of speakers whose views offend the woke Left. We're already at a point where suggesting someone who is biologically a woman is actually a woman is tantamount to farting in front of the Queen or kicking Alan Bennett in the balls. Just ask J K Rowling.


And now the government wishes to introduce a form of censorship the like of which this country has never seen. Who will decide what is "harmful"? Harmful to whom? And in what way?


Big Brother Watch has recently conducted an experiment in which comments made by various MPs were posted on social media sites - and were then removed by Facebook for being offensive. Mark Johnson of Big Brother Watch says: "Unpleasantness alone is not a legitimate basis for censorship... The Online Safety Bill would replace Britain's carefully balanced right to free speech with the changing, censorious terms and conditions of foreign companies." He's right.


Britons have two inalienable and balanced rights: the right to be offensive, and the right to be offended. And that is entirely as it should be.


And note that title: the Online Safety Bill. People are unsafe online? Really? If someone's standing in front of you with a knife demanding your wallet and watch, you're unsafe. If you're jumping out of a plane without a parachute, you're unsafe. If you're being called a f***ing twat on Facebook, you're not unsafe and I have a suggestion for you: delete the app, go outside, enjoy the fresh air, and do something more profitable with your day. Wounded feelings shouldn't be the preserve of the law.


I have another suggestion: root out the people who meet the current legal tests of incitement to violence or hatred, prosecute them, and ban them from using social media sites in the future. And leave the rest of us alone.


But of course they won't do that, will they? Because it's easier to punish the many for the sins of the few.


With Putin's Russia casting its dark shadow across Europe, you'd think the government would be a little more cautious about throwing away rights we've enjoyed in this country for centuries. Have none of them ever been to Russia, or to China, or North Korea - where the internet is already carefully policed, outside influences suppressed, and technology used as a tool to beat down and control citizens? We all have a duty to speak out against such suppression.


"Right. Who put sulphuric acid in the blackboard chalk box? No-one? Well in that case, you can all go and I will put considerable efforts into finding out who was responsible and punishing them." That's a teacher I could respect.

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