Online Safety made dangerous

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From the government press release, and without seeing the text of the Bill, there are already things we can say about the Online Safety Bill. It is a festival of inane, poorly thought out and dangerous ideas. Longer term, it will be fuel for the Putins and other authoritarians, who revel in the prospect of identifying everyone and deciding for themselves what is right and wrong, and will be very pleased that the UK government is taking essentially the same approach.

Sweeping ministerial powers

Deciding what is ‘legal but harmful’ has proved impossible, so the Bill’s answer is to allow ministers to decide. They have however conceded that this should be rubber stamped by Parliament. This means that the boundaries of online censorship will be politically driven, rather than defined by laws governed by human rights.

It will also undermine the ‘independence’ of the new Official Internet Censor, Ofcom, who will be told what needs removing by their political masters.

Backdoor Press regulation

Because there are exemptions to allow the press to say vile but lawful things which the rest of us cannot, Ofcom must determine who the press are. In practice this will mean that, for instance, a publisher can show they are a member of a press body, such as a regulator. Thereby the state will now regulate who is allowed to be the media, at least in order to avoid online censorship. The press do not seem to have realised that they have conceded something they have campaigned

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