Online Safety Bill “on the verge of being unworkable”
UK campaigners are warning that the Online Safety Bill will be “on the verge of being unworkable” if presented to MPs in its current form.
16 groups have sent a letter to the UK Culture Secretary Nadine Norris, calling for the Government to introduce further amendments.
They claim that the bill focuses too heavily on regulating what people can say online, rather than taking into account the role of tech companies in promoting harmful content.
“As a result, it risks being the worst of both worlds: failing to keep us safe, while also threatening free speech,” they wrote.
Among the signatories, there are Fair Vote UK, Open Britain, Hope Not Hate and Unlock Democracy.
✍️ Today, we wrote to @NadineDorries warning that new social media laws are on the verge of being unworkable. The government may sit in total disarray – but that doesn’t mean they should get away with bad legislation. There’s still time to fix the OSB.https://t.co/tMdcZeePi8July 7, 2022
Campaigners are proposing corrections on different areas of the legislation. These include:
- Strengthening freedom of expression, rights protections and mitigation measures against disinformation
- Better protection for marginalised groups
- Ensuring verification processes are as privacy-friendly as possible
- Boosting transparency requirements and access for independent inquiries from verified third-parties
They also warn of “end-dangerous loopholes” if paid ads won’t be brought into scope, citing researches suggesting that this type of content can cause “the greatest harm online”.
“Taken together, these would make the Bill simpler, more effective and easier to enforce,” they wrote, claiming to be ready and willing to work with the Government, MPs and other interested parties on further amendments.
“As the Bill makes its way through parliament, this is the last chance to bake in protections that work.”
Why is the Online Safety Bill controversial?
Considered as the ‘world-first’ law of such type, the Online Safety Bill (opens in new tab) is an ambitious piece of legislation that aims to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online.
However, it has sparked many concerns among politicians and civil liberties groups fearing that its directives may undermine internet freedom and online free speech.
Commentators are also worried for the future of end-to-end encryption – the technology behind secure messaging apps like WhatsApp and the best VPN services.
In a report published on July 4 (opens in new tab), it was the time for the House of Commons Committee to raise additional issues with the current state of the bill. They are particularly concerned of the Secretary of State’s new powers in directing Ofcom’s duties, the body in charge to enforce the new regulations.
“The Government must maintain its approach to ensuring independent, effective and trustworthy regulation that has a proven track record in other sectors,” they conclude, calling for the Government to implement their recommendations.