Government’s Online Safety Bill is an Orwellian Censorship Machine

  • Powers to imprison social media executives mirrors those exercised by Vladimir Putin in Russia
  • Ministerial powers to censor legal content still in place
  • Shifting bill promises more policy failures and disappointment

Responding to the news of the Government’s republication of the draft Online Safety Bill, the Executive Director of the Open Rights Group, Jim Killock, said: 

“The fact that the Bill keeps changing its content after four years of debate should tell everyone that it is a mess, and likely to be a bitter disappointment in practice.

“Dropping powers to ban encryption would be a major step forward, if confirmed in the Bill. Ukrainians and Russian dissidents today are relying on encryption to protect themselves from real world harm.
“We have repeatedly warned the Government that attacks on encryption would only help blackmailers, scammers and other criminals.

“The Bill still contains powers for Ministers to decide what legal content platforms must try to remove. Parliamentary rubber stamps for Ministerial say-so’s will still compromise the independence of the regulator. It would mean state sanctioned censorship of legal content.

“DCMS have not explained their position on age verification for Google Search and Reddit, nor on limiting anonymity, which is relied on by many vulnerable people to express themselves online, such as LGBTIQ+ people and victims of domestic abuse.

“Powers to imprison social media executives should be compared with Putin’s similar threats a matter of weeks ago.

“The Government should be ensuring that police investigate and criminals are prosecuted, rather than chasing takedown procedures and content moderation policies.”