UK's Online Safety Bill Becomes Law, Prompting Concerns over Privacy and Messaging Services Threatening to Withdraw

Critics have expressed worries about potential privacy issues. Messaging services like WhatsApp have even threatened to withdraw from the UK due to the implications of the act.
02 November 2023
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After years of debate, the UK government's controversial Online Safety Bill has finally become law. Its primary goal is to enhance online safety for children by holding tech firms accountable for the content on their platforms.

The Technology Secretary, Michelle Donelan, believes that the law will ensure the long-term online safety of British society. However, critics have expressed concerns about potential privacy issues.

Messaging services like WhatsApp have even threatened to withdraw from the UK to avoid complying with the act. 

Under the new law, tech firms will bear the responsibility of safeguarding children from harmful material, even if it is legally acceptable. The regulatory body, Ofcom, has been granted additional powers for enforcing the law.

Specific measures include mandating pornography sites to implement age verification systems and requiring platforms to demonstrate their commitment to removing illegal content.

The act also includes controversial provisions that could compel messaging services to inspect encrypted messages for child abuse material. This has prompted platforms like WhatsApp, Signal, and iMessage to voice their opposition, stating that compromising message security would undermine privacy protections for all users.

Proton, a privacy-focused mail platform, has vowed to fight the government in court if asked to alter its end-to-end encryption. Proton CEO, Andy Yen, warns that the government's power to access private messages poses a significant threat to the internet.

The government has assured that tech firms will only be asked to access messages once a viable technology is developed. Despite this, entities like Wikipedia have already indicated their refusal to comply with certain aspects of the act, such as age verification.

- CyberBeat


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