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U.K.'s Online Censorship Bill Causes Far More Harm Than It Attempts To Prevent

Added 08-10-22 07:21:02am EST - “The United Kingdom's innocuously-titled Online Safety Bill threatens citizens' rights to privacy and to speak freely.” - Reason.com

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Posted By TheNewsCommenter: From Reason.com: “U.K.'s online censorship bill causes far more harm than it attempts to prevent”. Below is an excerpt from the article.

With the U.K.'s Conservative Party closing in on deciding who will inherit the mess left by Boris Johnson's tenure as prime minister, that country's governing apparatus will soon get back to the important business of intruding into people's lives.

At the top of the to-do list is the long-coming Online Safety Bill which, as has become traditional for legislation, does nothing that its title suggests. In fact, those who offend the government with their online speech or efforts to protect privacy may soon be a lot less safe.

"If the Online Safety Bill passes, the U.K. government will be able to directly silence user speech, and even imprison those who publish messages that it doesn't like," the Electronic Frontier Foundation's (EFF) Joe Mullin cautioned last week. "The bill empowers the UK's Office of Communications (OFCOM) to levy heavy fines or even block access to sites that offend people. We said last year that those powers raise serious concerns about freedom of expression. Since then, the bill has been amended, and it's gotten worse."

The Online Safety Bill is sold as a measure to protect children from predators and pornography, society from terrorists, and the public from all sorts of vaguely defined "harmful" content that might offend sensibilities, but it takes on that enormous task in an inevitably broad way. Mullin is far from the first civil liberties advocate to warn of the dangers inherent in allowing the British government's regulatory Office of Communication, commonly called Ofcom, sweeping powers over people's use of the internet.

"There are many reasons to be concerned about the #OnlineSafetyBill, the latest manifestation of which has just been launched, to a mixture of fanfares and fury," Paul Bernal, a lecturer at the University of East Anglia Law School, warned in March. "The massive attacks on privacy (including an awful general monitoring requirement) and freedom of speech (most directly through the highly contentious 'legal but harmful' concept) are just the starting point. The likely use of the 'duty of care' demanded of online service providers to limit or even ban both encryption and anonymity, thereby making all of us less—and in particular children—less safe and less free is another. The political control of censorship via Ofcom is in some ways even worse—as is the near certain inability of Ofcom to do the gargantuan tasks being required of it—and that's not even starting on the mammoth and costly bureaucratic burdens being foisted on people operating online services."

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