The UK has passed its controversial online censorship act known as the Online Safety Bill. The bill, one of the widest sweeping attacks on privacy and free speech in a Western democracy will become law.
The bill seeks to shield internet users, especially youth, from the slingshots of malicious online content. But the bill goes beyond forcing platforms to remove illegal content.
It calls upon social media giants to act as custodians, safeguarding users against ill-intent messages, cyberbullying, and explicit material.
The bill is shrouded in a veil of safetyism and pays only lip service to privacy and free speech rights. We cannot cower from highlighting the bill’s overt undertone of censorship, veering into a territory where freedom of speech and privacy might be sacrificed at the altar of digital safety.
Michelle Donelan, Technology Secretary, voiced her support for the bill, branding it as an “enormous step forward in our mission to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.” Under the proposed law, social media corporations will be forced into swift action, not just for removing violative content but also for hindering its emergence.
The implementation sword will be wielded by Ofcom, the communications regulator, with the law setting a stringent punishment pathway for non-compliers, inclusive of colossal fines and even incarceration.
The bill further pioneers new criminal offenses to its roster, like cyber-flashing and the distribution of manipulated explicit content, or deepfake pornography.
The bill imbues the government with tremendous power; the capability to demand that online services employ government-approved software to scan through user content, including photos, files, and messages, to identify illegal content. Non-compliance can result in severe penalties such as facing criminal charges.
From a free speech and anti-censorship perspective, this legislation is fundamentally disturbing. Critics argue this bill could enhance potential censorship on the pretext of safety….