The UK has passed its much-debated Online Safety Bill, a titanic piece of internet regulation that has been debated and amended by the country’s Parliament for years.
Nearly 300 pages long, the bill creates a vast list of content moderation requirements for tech companies that wish to operate in the UK. The government’s own estimates show that the bill’s reach will go far beyond the biggest tech titans, with more than 20,000 small businesses likely to be affected.
The UK’s Office of Communications (Ofcom), the country’s equivalent of the FCC, will have the power to levy fines of up to £18 million (roughly $22 million) on non-compliant companies. In some cases, executives may face jail time for non-compliance.
The bill regulates illegal content like child sexual abuse and terrorism, but also goes far beyond it. Companies will face penalties for failing to clamp down on scam ads, “deepfake” pornography, and even for failing to offer users the ability to limit their exposure to “anonymous trolls.”
The bill has undergone several twists and turns in its development. At times, the government sought powers to override encrypted communications, leading to warnings from the encrypted chat apps Signal and Facebook-owned WhatsApp that they may have to quit the country rather than comply. The government eventually backtracked on this measure.
The bills passage was welcomed by Imran Ahmed, head of infamous Center for Countering Digital Hate (CCDH), the organization behind Joe Biden’s “disinformation dozen” smear against critics of COVID-19 policies.
“Too much tragedy has already befallen people in this country because of tech companies’ moral failures,” Ahmed said in a comment reported by the BBC.
Former U.S. State Department official and online freedom campaigner Mike Benz condemned the bill’s passage, saying it would grant too much power to the “sprawling” UK deep state.
This will probably end up being one of the darkest days we mark in the history of Internet censorship.
The sprawling British State & UK intelligence censorship apparatus constructed over the past 7 years has just been made extremely armed & dangerous. https://t.co/dIWn0a65q0
— Mike Benz (@MikeBenzCyber) September 19, 2023
“This will probably end up being one of the darkest days we mark in the history of Internet censorship,” said Benz. “The sprawling British State & UK intelligence censorship apparatus constructed over the past 7 years has just been made extremely armed & dangerous.”
Allum Bokhari is the senior technology correspondent at Breitbart News. He is the author of #DELETED: Big Tech’s Battle to Erase the Trump Movement and Steal The Election. Follow him on Twitter @AllumBokhari.