- The UK is in the final stages of passing a new online safety law that tackles a wide range of harmful content on the internet.
- The legislation will impose stiff penalties on social media companies and online platforms that fail to remove content covered by the law.
- Privacy row over Ofcom’s abilities to require scanning of messages for illegal content.
In the United Kingdom, they are moving towards the enactment of a new online security law that will mainly affect social networks and online platforms. This legislation has gone through a long process of development and debate in the House of Lords.
Initially, the bill focused on addressing illegal content on the Internet. However, as it has evolved, its scope has been expanded to cover a wide range of harmful content.
This includes not only combating the promotion of suicide and self-harm, but also prosecuting cyberbullying, animal cruelty, and adult material that could be accessible to children.
In addition, the legislation aims to make efforts to search for illicit activities such as the sale of drugs and weapons, incitement to terrorism and content related to sexual exploitation, hate speech and scams.
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Recently, new provisions have been added to the bill that address the display and sharing of grossly fake pornography.
“The Online Safety Bill is a piece of legislation that redefines the rules of the game in the digital world. This government is taking a giant step forward in our mission to make the UK the safest place in the world to be in online,” said Michelle Donelan, UK Technology Secretary.
Fear for privacy with the new online security law in the UK
One of the most controversial parts of the law is the ability given to Ofcom, the communications regulator, to require online platforms to scan messages for illegal content, raising legitimate concerns about the privacy and security of users.
Messaging services such as WhatsApp have warned of the difficulty of changing encryption in only one part of the world, which could lead to the withdrawal of services in the UK by tech giants such as Meta and Signal.
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Despite the British government’s claims that messages will not be scanned without “appropriate technology” to guarantee users’ privacy, organizations such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) argue that these guarantees are not sufficient to protect the fundamental rights of users British and Internet users around the world.
Additionally, there are concerns about the possible impact on websites such as Wikipedia, which could be forced to implement age restrictions to comply with the law, which could also lead to the platform being shut down in the country.