U.K. unveils plan to strengthen Online Safety Bill

The British government announced it would be bolstering its Online Safety Bill.

U.K. unveils plan to strengthen Online Safety Bill
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The newly strengthened online safety bill in the United Kingdom will now force Big Tech giants to crack down on “illegal activity” on their platforms. These changes will include targeting hate crimes, COVID-19 disinformation and so-called Internet “trolling”.

The list, with newly added “harmful online communications offences”, will include the following: 

  • Online drug and weapons dealing
  • People smuggling
  • Revenge porn
  • Fraud
  • Promoting suicide
  • Inciting or controlling prostitution for gain
  • Hate crimes
  • Terrorism
  • Child sex abuse
  • Human trafficking
  • Extremist groups encouraging violence and racial hate against minorities
  • Sharing “hoax” COVID-19 treatments
  • Threats to rape, kill and inflict physical violence or to cause “financial harm”
  • Hoax bomb threats
  • “Harmful and abusive” emails, social media posts and WhatsApp messages

Ofcom, the U.K.'s communications regulator, will be given the power to issue fines of up to 10 per cent of annual worldwide turnover to non-compliant sites or block them from being accessible in the U.K.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said “The internet cannot be a safe haven for despicable criminals to exploit and abuse people online," adding that "companies must continue to take responsibility for stopping harmful material on their platforms. These new measures will make it easier and quicker to crack down on offenders and hold social media companies to account."

Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries outlined how the bill would make the U.K. “the safest place in the world to be online while enshrining free speech.”

“That's exactly what we are going to do,” Dorries said. 

According to the government website“The new communications offences will strengthen protections from harmful online behaviours such as coercive and controlling behaviour by domestic abusers; threats to rape, kill and inflict physical violence; and deliberately sharing dangerous disinformation about hoax COVID-19 treatments.”

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  • By David Menzies

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