Although supposedly aimed at curtailing online abuse, critics have said that Britain’s Online Safety Bill would increase censorship of expression while failing to tackle the heart of internet-based abuses.

Posted BY: David McLoone

LONDON (LifeSiteNews) – A draft bill set to radically change the way that Brits interact with the internet is making its way through the U.K. Parliament.

Although proposed as a “world-leading” means of protecting children online by making Britain “the safest place in the world in which to use the internet,” the Online Safety Bill (OSB) has received widespread criticism. Opponents say that it will fail at protecting the most vulnerable from online predators, and simultaneously grant untold powers of censorship to powerful internet-based social media and search engine organizations.

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The 225-page bill is purportedly aimed at regulating the digital space in order to protect internet users, particularly those in “vulnerable” categories (such as children) from “content that is harmful” online.

To achieve this goal, the bill proposes to levy new “duty of care” obligations upon “user-to-user services” and internet “search services” which will require tech firms like Google, Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp to police their platforms more closely for content considered “harmful,” regardless of it being legal.

The firms will be responsible for updating their terms of use to reflect strict new laws around content publishing while ramping up efforts to remove and censor anything that comes close to breaking the proposed legislation.

The penalty for failing to uphold the as yet unclear standard could amount to fine of 10 percent of a company’s global revenue, or even having the platform banned completely, giving tech companies strong incentive to be overly cautious in prohibiting content on their platforms.

The bill sets as its major aims the protection of children from being groomed by pedophiles online and thwarting conspiratorial and terror groups from convening over the internet and spreading propaganda.

While these look like noble aims, the draft bill has received widespread criticism, particularly within conservative circles, for seeming to “strangle free speech.” It may also breach provisions guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights, of which the U.K. is a signatory.

Alongside protecting children from “harmful content,” the OSB purports to outlaw “content that is harmful to adults.” Both categories stand ambiguously defined within the OSB, the latter of which is described as “content that is harmful to adults, or content … of a kind which presents a material risk of significant harm to an appreciable number of adults in the United Kingdom.”