Britain Wants To Jail Social Media Managers Who Don’t Censor to the Government’s Liking
United Kingdom leaders are pushing forward with a massive online censorship bill that, thanks to the lobbying of a group of lawmakers over the weekend, has been made significantly harsher with threats of imprisonment for tech platform managers who run afoul of the complicated regulations.
The Online Safety Bill has been under construction in the U.K. Parliament and various government committees for nearly a year. The massive bill (the current version spans 260 pages) establishes “duty of care” responsibilities for tech platforms to keep what the government deems “online harms” (which is broader than just violent or pornographic content) out of the view of children.
The bill flat-out forces platforms to serve as censors or face significant fines—£18 million ($22 million) or 10 percent of a company’s global revenue, whichever is higher. The rules will be overseen by the Office of Communications (Ofcom), the U.K. government’s media regulator.
Reason has warned about this bill in the past, particularly given the country’s willingness to use the law to punish people who say things the government deems “offensive.” Last year, Joseph Kelley, a citizen of Glasgow, Scotland, tweeted out an insult of an elderly military veteran who had become a “national inspiration” for his resilience in accepting the coronavirus lockdowns (and later died of COVID-19 complications because he was unable to be vaccinated for health reasons). Kelley was prosecuted under a British law against “grossly offensive” messages and sentenced to 150 hours of community service.
Over the weekend, a group of conservative lawmakers succeeded in forcing reforms to the Online Safety Bill to make it even more punishing, and they were willing to sink the whole bill to get their way. Brits probably would have been better off if that had been the case. Instead, the act is now in the process of being amended to add a potential two-year prison sentence to managers of platforms who ignore enforcement orders from Ofcom to remove or censor content or to otherwise make sure children don’t have access to it.
To be clear, just in case what happened to Kelley doesn’t spell it out, we’re talking about censorship above and
Article from Reason.com