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UK Parliament Passes Online Safety Bill Bringing A New Era Of Digital Safety!

By TD NewsDesk

TD NewsDesk

Updated on Wed, Sep 20, 2023

Overall Rating
Have you ever seen those see-saws in a park? Yeah, the ride that requires individuals on both sides to maintain the balance. Now, before you disappear into the good old memories of playing in the park and bursting into giggles while balancing the see-saw, let us reveal a recent report on the Online Safety Bill that reminded us of this precious part of our childhood.

A recent report highlighted how the United Kingdom's parliament has greenlit the Online Safety Bill, setting the stage for a new era of content regulation on online platforms and services. If you are wondering about the nitty-gritty of this Online Safety Bill, then let us remind you it is the same bill that was the talk of the town during the grand battle between the tech giants and your personal chats.

Coming back to the present, contentious legislation places the responsibility of overseeing the internet squarely on Ofcom, the UK communications watchdog, transforming it into the primary internet regulator. With the Online Safety Bill's approval, it is now on the edge of becoming law upon receiving Royal Assent in the coming days.

More like a seesaw, this Online Safety Bill balances two essential values: safety and freedom in the digital world.

You must be wondering why, according to UK regulators, this Online Safety Bill is needed:
  • The report says, at its core, the government's motivation behind this legislation is to make the UK the global leader in online safety, especially for children. Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, speaking during the bill's final deliberations in the House of Lords, reiterated this intention "to make the UK the safest place in the world to be online, particularly for children". Talking about the bill he further mentioned attention now moves "very swiftly to Ofcom… who stand ready to implement this — and do so swiftly".

  • One of the central provisions of the Online Safety Bill grants Ofcom the authority to impose substantial fines, potentially amounting to 10% of a company's annual turnover or up to £18 million, whichever is greater, for violations of the new regulatory framework. This financial penalty underscores the government's commitment to holding online platforms accountable for their content.

However, the bill's journey has not been without its challenges and controversies. What challenges did it face, you ask?
  • To begin with, concerns have arisen regarding the encryption issue, particularly concerning primary messaging services like WhatsApp.

  • Moreover, the report says, some fear that the Online Safety Bill may lead to widespread age-gating of the UK internet.

  • Notably, Wikipedia's founder, Jimmy Wales, has voiced concerns about the bill's potential as an instrument of state censorship. Jimmy Wales criticized the bill as "Bad for human rights", "bad for Internet safety and "bad law" — and pledged the online encyclopedia "will not age-gate nor selectively censor articles under any circumstances".

Now, let's see how this Online Safety Bill will make a difference:
  • The road to the Online Safety Bill has been a long and evolving one, reflecting the UK's efforts to address various online safety concerns. Initially focusing on tackling illegal content like terrorism and child sexual abuse material, it gradually expanded its scope to encompass various harmful online activities.

  • According to Dame Melanie Dawes, Ofcom's CEO, "Today is a major milestone in the mission to create a safer life online for children and adults in the UK. Everyone at Ofcom feels privileged to be entrusted with this important role, and we're ready to start implementing these new laws." He further continued, "Very soon after the Bill receives Royal Assent, we'll consult on the first set of standards that we'll expect tech firms to meet in tackling illegal online harms, including child sexual exploitation, fraud and terrorism."

In a nutshell, passing the Online Safety Bill marks a significant step in the UK's quest to create a safer online environment. As Ofcom prepares to implement this groundbreaking legislation, the world and Big Tech businesses watch closely to figure out how to navigate this challenging new digital terrain.

Do you think the Online Safety Bill will bring equilibrium to internet’s see-saw? Will businesses like WhatsApp adhere to governmental rules?

Drop your thoughts in the comments section below!

First published on Wed, Sep 20, 2023

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Online Safety Bill United Kingdom UK Online Safety Child abuse Ofcom Jimmy Wales

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