UK Online Safety Bill: Good in Theory, Unforeseen Issues in Practice

Teodora Dobrilova
Teodora Dobrilova

Updated · Feb 21, 2022

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In the following days, a joint committee of MPs and Lords will issue a report with recommendations concerning the Online Safety Bill.

Working on the Legislation 

After the joint parliamentary committee outlines its recommendations, the bill will be passed to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). It will have the last word on what to include. 

The final version will be presented back to the Parliament in March 2022. 

The Online Safety Bill aims to: 

  • stop the spread of content involving child pornography, racist abuse, terrorist materials, etc.
  • protect children from exposure to harmful content
  • protect adults from harmful materials, even if they are legal

This, however, has introduced a series of challenges. For example - how to tackle abuse from anonymous accounts and how authorities are supposed to safeguard hate speech. 

The legislation lets tech giants deal with those issues. It also puts Ofcom - the UK's communications regulator -  in charge of monitoring the big companies.

If any of them go against the new rules, they will receive fines of £18m, or 10% of their annual global turnover, depending on which is higher. 

The Criticism

The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children is one of the most prominent critics of the bill. It is now suggesting a plan to improve the legislation, the main focus being kids’ internet safety

According to the NSPCC, the bill should deal with the ways offenders organize to spread abuse online. One way to do so is to give more power to deal with cyberbullying. It also insists that there should be a named manager, responsible for children's safety and a statutory body to represent the interests of younger citizens. 

In addition, the bill should find a way to disrupt grooming pathways.

The Index on Censorship and the Open Rights Groups consider the idea of defining speech as “harmful” dangerous. They also don’t approve of the fact that it’s up to Silicon Valley firms whether to remove it.

Sources.

BBC

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Teodora Dobrilova

Teodora Dobrilova

Teodora devoted her whole life to words – reading, writing and trying to be original on social media. She got certified in digital marketing but still feels she’s not cool enough to be an influencer. (We all disagree – she influences the team pretty well.) She finished a master’s degree focused in Literature, Publishing, Mass Media. Her hobbies include traveling, and reading. Teddy hopes that yoga will be the thing to finally teach her some patience and show her the path toward world domination. Maybe modern tech can also help her with that.

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