UK’s Online Safety Bill Passed to Ensure Safer Internet for Children 

UK’s Online Safety Bill Passed to Ensure Safer Internet for Children 

The UK’s Parliament has approved the long-awaited Online Safety Bill, marking a significant milestone in making the internet safer for everyone, especially children. The legislation, which has evolved significantly over the years, is set to hold major social media accountable for their content while promoting online safety.

In an announcement on September 19, Britain’s government said that once the bill becomes law, social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, TikTok, and WhatsApp will have a crucial responsibility to ensure user’s safety.

The companies will be required to remove illegal content from their platforms and take measures to prevent children from accessing inappropriate material. This includes implementing stringent age verification checks and age-appropriate content measures and allowing parents to report harmful content.

New UK Safety Law Applies to the Metaverse

The bill, which is currently awaiting approval from King Charles, has undergone substantial changes since its initial proposal more than four years ago. Initially, the legislation sought to address “legal but harmful” content found on various online platforms.

However, it has now shifted its primary purpose to prioritize child protection and promptly remove illegal material from the internet.

“Our common-sense approach will deliver a better future for the British people by making sure that what is illegal offline is illegal online,” says technology secretary Michelle Donelan.

In July, lawmakers in the upper house of Parliament agreed that the “Online Safety Bill” will apply to the metaverse, a digital universe where people can seamlessly interact with each other just like the physical world.

“The metaverse is in the scope of the bill, which, as noble Lords know, has been designed to be technology neutral and future-proofed to ensure that it keeps pace with emerging technologies,” Lord Stephen Parkinson, a member of the Parliament, said.

UK Parliament Appoints Media Regulator to Enforce the Bill

To ensure these regulations are enforced effectively, the UK’s Parliament said the bill would be enforced by the country’s media regulator Ofcom. The internet watchdog has been given the authority to impose fines on companies that fail to comply with the incoming rules.

The lawmakers explained that companies that fail to comply with the Online Safety Bill could face penalties of up to £18 million ($22.3 million) or 10% of their annual global turnover, providing a strong incentive for adherence to these safety standards.

In a separate statement, Ofcom chief executive Dame Melanie Dawes said the regulator is ready to start the implementation of the rules as soon as it receives its final Royal Assent.

“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,” said she.

She further stated that Ofcom will consult on the first set of requirements that it expects the companies to meet to tackle illegal online harm, including child sexual exploitation, fraud, and terrorism.

WhatsApp Threatens to Leave the UK Market

While the Online Safety Bill focuses on internet protection against bad actors, it has not been without criticism. One notable issue concerns its potential impact on encrypted messaging services like WhatsApp. These platforms fear that they may be required to compromise their end-to-end encryption protocols to meet the bill’s stringent requirements, raising concerns about user privacy.

Earlier this year, WhatsApp threatened to leave the UK if forced to comply with the online safety rules in March. The company’s head, Will Cathcart, said in a post on X that WhatsApp will never break its privacy policy.

“The fact remains that scanning everyone’s messages would destroy privacy as we know it. That was as true last year as it is today,” Cathcart wrote. “@WhatsApp will never break our encryption and remains vigilant against threats to do so.”


UK’s Online Safety Bill Passed to Ensure Safer Internet for Children 

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