The Online Safety Bill: punishing victims

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The government has today announced two new regressive and unworkable additions to the Online Safety Bill. With each new announcement, the Bill demonstrates itself to make the online world less safe for the people it claims to protect, particularly LGBTQ+, survivors of abuse and ethnic minorities.

Crackdown on anonymity

The government claims that abuse is ‘thought’ to be linked to anonymity but in practice, most online abuse is done by very identifiable people, who simply believe they are entitled to their right to talk down, threaten or humiliate. Even when users are anonymous, police data requests are already capable of stripping away this anonymity by linking their IP addresses to their home addresses via a match from their internet service provider.

More importantly, for victims of abuse, anonymity is necessary and the only way they can access the online world while staying safe. 

LGBTQ+ people frequently use anonymity to shield themselves from the real world abuse and prejudice, they may otherwise face from family, religious or community members. 

Survivors of physical or sexual abuse use anonymity to reduce the possibility of engaging their abusers. Others, from trades unionists to whistle blowers, use anonymity to separate their opinions and beliefs from those who would seek to do them harm for holding those views.

It is sad to imagine how the example of the British government destroying anonymity will be used by Putin and his friends. It is easy to envisage how dangerous this proposal is in that international context.

Of course,

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