Views Around the Table on the Online Safety Bill

On 27 September 2022, Open Rights Group (ORG) held a roundtable with civil society – from women’s rights advocacy groups to organisations representing over-surveilled communities – to discuss some of the most concerning aspects of the Online Safety Bill, currently at the report stage in the House of Commons.

Two particular issues were raised during the event: content moderation and encryption. Dr. Edina Harbinger from Aston University and network security expert Alec Muffet gave participants an overview of the Bill’s impact on these two issues. 

ORG’s freedom of expression policy manager Dr. Monica Horten chaired the discussion, expressing that the main aim was to understand from participants, when it comes to the tension between privacy and protection online, whether the balance within the Bill is right.

Implications of the Bill

The summary report of the discussion can be found online. Some of the issues touched on included how “illegal content,” listed in Schedule 7 of the Bill, would be handled, which Harbinger said would need technology to monitor content, so anything illegal is removed efficiently.

It also covered what was meant by “legal but harmful” content and whether any content moderation algorithm had the required nuances to detect such content, not to mention the implications of monitoring such content on free speech. There have been some updates on this aspect of the Bill, as discussed below. 

Technology capability notices (TCN) were explained with the power given to Ofcom as the regulator to facilitate an interception warrant, potentially allowing someone to monitor and break

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