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How to Determine If Negative Online Content is Unlawful

How to Determine If Negative Online Content is Unlawful

Online content can be a source of information, entertainment, education and communication. However, some online content can also be harmful, offensive, illegal or inappropriate for certain audiences. How can we tell if the online content we encounter is unlawful or not? What are the criteria and standards that apply to different types of online content? And what can we do if we come across online content that violates the law or our rights? In this post, we will try to answer these questions and provide some guidance on how to deal with negative online content.

What is negative online content?

Negative online content is a broad term that can refer to any online material that causes harm or distress to individuals or groups, or that violates the law or social norms. Negative online content can include:

  • Illegal content: This is content that is prohibited by law and can result in criminal prosecution or civil liability. Examples of illegal content are child sexual abuse material, terrorist propaganda, incitement to violence or hatred, defamation, fraud, copyright infringement, etc.
  • Harmful content: This is content that may not be illegal but can still cause harm to individuals or groups, such as cyberbullying, harassment, stalking, revenge porn, hate speech, disinformation, etc.
  • Restricted content: This is content that may be legal but is subject to certain restrictions or limitations based on age, location, context or other factors. Examples of restricted content are adult pornography, gambling, violent or graphic images, etc.

How to determine if online content is unlawful?

There is no simple answer to this question, as different types of online content may be subject to different laws and regulations depending on the jurisdiction, the platform and the nature of the content. However, some general principles and steps that can help us determine if online content is unlawful are:

  • Check the source and context of the content: Sometimes, the source and context of the content can give us clues about its legitimacy and credibility. For example, if the content comes from a reputable news outlet or an official authority, it is more likely to be accurate and lawful than if it comes from an anonymous or unreliable source. Similarly, if the content is clearly marked as satire, parody or opinion, it may be protected by freedom of expression rights and not constitute an unlawful act.
  • Check the applicable laws and regulations: Different countries and regions have different laws and regulations that define what constitutes illegal or restricted online content. For example, some countries have strict laws against blasphemy or obscenity, while others have more liberal views on these matters. Similarly, some countries have specific laws that regulate online platforms and their responsibility for the content they host or distribute. For example, in Australia, there is a law that empowers the eSafety Commissioner to investigate and take action against illegal and harmful online content. In the European Union (EU), there are several directives and regulations that set common rules and standards for online platforms and their users. Therefore, it is important to check the laws and regulations that apply to the online content we encounter and see if they are violated or not.
  • Check the platform’s policies and terms of service: Online platforms usually have their own policies and terms of service that govern what kind of content they allow or prohibit on their services. These policies and terms of service may be more strict or lenient than the laws and regulations that apply to them. For example, some platforms may ban hate speech or nudity even if they are not illegal in some jurisdictions. Therefore, it is important to check the platform’s policies and terms of service and see if they are violated or not.
  • Report or flag the content: If we encounter online content that we believe is unlawful or harmful, we can report or flag it to the platform or the authorities. Most platforms have mechanisms for users to report or flag inappropriate or illegal content and request its removal or moderation. Similarly, some authorities have hotlines or websites where users can report illegal or harmful online content and seek assistance or protection. For example, in the UK, there is a White Paper on Online Harms that proposes a new regulatory model for online platforms to prevent and address online harms. Reporting or flagging online content can help us protect ourselves and others from harm and also contribute to making the online environment safer and more respectful.

Conclusion and recommendations

Online content can have positive or negative impacts on individuals and society. Therefore, it is important to be aware of the different types of online content we encounter and how to determine if they are unlawful or not. By following some general principles and steps outlined in this blog post, we can make informed and responsible decisions about the online content we consume and produce, and also protect our rights and interests online.

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One Comment

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