The Online Safety Bill gives the UK government unprecedented power to determine “harmful” content

The UK’s latest attempt to clamp down on free speech online, the 225 page Online Safety Bill, will give sweeping new censorship powers to the UK’s Secretary of State and its communications regulator, the Office of Communications (Ofcom), if passed.

It gives the UK Culture Secretary the power to decide on and designate “priority content that is harmful.”

Once the Secretary of State has designated this content, social media platforms and search engines that fall under the scope of the bill’s regulations have to “use proportionate systems and processes” to prevent children from encountering this priority content.

These platforms are also required to specify in their terms of service how they’ll tackle priority content that’s deemed to be “harmful to adults” and apply these measures consistently.

Additionally, the Culture Secretary gets the power to decide the user number and feature thresholds that determine whether a company falls under the scope of these requirements to remove and tackle priority content.

Collectively, these provisions give the Culture Secretary unprecedentedly broad powers to not only choose the types of speech that is allowed but to also set the rules around which platforms have to censor content.

Under the bill, Ofcom will be granted the power to issue harsh punishments to platforms that fail to meet the Secretary’s censorship demands.

These punishments include applying for court orders that restrict access to platforms in the UK and fining platforms up to £18 million ($23.78 million) or 10% of their revenue (whichever is higher).

In another authoritarian turn, if Ofcom decides that a platform is failing to comply with any aspect of the Online Safety Bill, it can also demand information from the platform via an “information notice” and require the platform to name a senior manager who can be fined or imprisoned for up to two years if they’re found guilty of failing to comply with the requirements.

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Author: HP McLovincraft

Seeker of rabbit holes. Pessimist. Libertine. Contrarian. Your huckleberry. Possibly true tales of sanity-blasting horror also known as abject reality. Prepare yourself. Veteran of a thousand psychic wars. I have seen the fnords. Deplatformed on Tumblr and Twitter.

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