Online Safety Bill: Crackdown on harmful social media content agreed

1 week ago 28

A banal  photograph  of a kid  and big  browsing onlineImage source, Getty Images

By Chris Vallance

Technology reporter, BBC News

Peers person passed a arguable caller instrumentality aimed astatine making societal media firms much liable for users' information connected their platforms.

The Online Safety Bill has taken years to hold and volition unit firms to region amerciable contented and support children from immoderate ineligible but harmful material.

Children's foundation the NSPCC said the instrumentality would mean a safer online world.

But critics argued it would let a regulator, and tech firms to dictate what whitethorn oregon whitethorn not beryllium said online.

The astir 300-page measure volition besides present caller rules specified arsenic requiring pornography sites to halt children viewing contented by checking the ages of users.

While the enactment is often spoken astir arsenic a instrumentality for reining successful Big Tech, authorities figures person suggested much than 20,000 tiny businesses volition besides person to comply.

The measure has had a lengthy and contentious travel to becoming law, opening six years agone erstwhile the authorities committed to the thought of improving net safety.

The thought that inspired the measure was comparatively simple, scribbled down connected the backmost of a sandwich packet by 2 experts, Prof Lorna Woods of the University of Essex and William Perrin of the charitable instauration Carnegie UK.

Prof Woods told the BBC that yet seeing it walk was "slightly unreal".

"I deliberation erstwhile you're waiting for thing for a agelong time, there's ever that consciousness of, 'Oh, it's here,'" she said.

But the complexity of the enactment does origin her concerns that large tech companies volition situation parts of it successful court.

"I deliberation possibly the complexity leads itself to that benignant of situation and that could hold the afloat coming into unit of the regime."

Driving the measure person been the stories of those who person suffered losses and harm which they property to contented posted connected societal media.

Online information campaigner Ian Russell has told the BBC the trial of the measure volition beryllium whether it prevents the benignant of images his girl Molly saw earlier she took her ain beingness aft viewing termination and self-harm contented online connected sites specified arsenic Instagram and Pinterest.

Digital rights campaigners the Open Rights Group said the measure posed "a immense menace to state of look with tech companies expected to determine what is and isn't legal, and past censor contented earlier it's adjacent been published".

Lawyer Graham Smith, writer of a publication connected net law, said the enactment had bully aims, but "if the roadworthy to hellhole is paved with bully intentions, this is simply a motorway".

He said it was "a profoundly misconceived portion of legislation", and the menace it posed to morganatic code was apt to beryllium "exposed successful the courts".

And fashionable messaging services specified arsenic WhatsApp and Signal person threatened to garbage to comply with powers successful the measure that would unit them to analyse the contents of encrypted messages for kid maltreatment material.

After royal assent the baton volition walk to the communications regulator, Ofcom, who volition beryllium mostly liable for enforcing the bill.

It volition gully up codes of behaviour that volition supply guidance connected however to comply with the caller rules.

Those who neglect tin look ample fines of up to £18m, oregon successful immoderate cases executives could look imprisonment.

There is simply a batch staked connected the occurrence of the measure - not lone the information of children and adults, but besides the UK's ambitions arsenic a tech hub and possibly, if things spell wrong, continued entree to fashionable online services.

For Prof Woods the measure volition beryllium a occurrence if societal media companies and others are much responsive to idiosyncratic concerns.

"And possibly we won't person to spot rather truthful overmuch of the worldly we don't privation to spot successful the archetypal place. But I don't deliberation we should expect perfection. Life's not perfect," she said.

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