British Law To Protect Online Users

The British Government's Online Safety Bill, announced in the recent Queen's Speech, comes with a promise of protecting debate. The aim is to keep children safe and it also aims to keep democratically important content preserved.  But some  campaign groups say the plans will lead to censorship, while others warn fines do not go far enough. 

The proposed legislation, previously known as the Online Harms Bill, has been two years in reparation.

The Bill, which is still in draft form is a milestone in the UK effort to make the internet a safer place for users. "Despite the fact that we are now using the Internet more than ever, over three quarters of UK adults are concerned about going online, and fewer parents feel the benefits outweigh the risks of their children being online, falling from 65 per cent in 2015 to 50 per cent in 2019”, says the Government statement .

It covers a huge range of content to which children might fall victim - including grooming, revenge porn, hate speech, images of child abuse and posts relating to suicide and eating disorders.But it goes much further, taking in terrorism, disinformation, racist abuse and pornography, too.Late additions to the bill include provisions to tackle online scams, such as romance fraud and fake investment opportunities. Significantly, It will not include fraud via advertising, emails or cloned websites.

One new section would make the UK one of the first nations in the west to require social networks to take active steps to moderate their impact on the democratic process. 

There are concerns that the requirement could lead to social networks refusing to take action against harmful content in case it is decreed to be democratically important. Digital Secretary Oliver Dowden said the "ground-breaking laws" would usher in "a new age of accountability for tech". 

Home Secretary Priti Patel added the scam provisions would help fight "ruthless criminals who defraud millions of people". Social media firms will have to remove harmful content quickly or potentially face multi-billion-pound fines under new UK legislation.

GovUK:       BBC:     Guardian:      Financial Times

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