Government plans to tighten regulations against internet companies pose a serious threat to free speech and will damage the economy, according to a new report.
The Adam Smith Institute (ASI) warned that making platforms such as Google and Facebook accountable for material posted by their users could lead to widespread censorship.
The think tank also dismissed concerns about big tech monopolies, arguing competition in the sector remains strong.
Instead, it warned regulation would create new barriers to entry that would entrench the dominance of tech giants and harm startups.
“The UK government is on the verge of making our internet the most censored and highly regulated of any western democracy,” said Matthew Lesh, head of research at the ASI and report co-author.
“The creation of new online speech regulator will not only make it harder for startups to establish and grow, it will undermine our core right to freedom of expression. Regulating the internet means crushing the internet and dismantling Britain’s liberal freedoms.”
The report called on the government to adopt a so-called permissionless innovation approach, allowing entrepreneurs to experiment with new business models and technologies and only intervening when there is clear, demonstrable harm to the public.
The ASI said Brexit provides an opportunity for the UK to break away from the “excessively precautionary approach” of the EU, attract tech investment and boost jobs.