(LifeSiteNews) – The United Kingdom’s revised Online Safety Bill (OSB) threatens social media companies with huge fines if they do not protect children from “legal but harmful” content.
This may lead to massive online censorship, as social media companies could ban the content outright, since enforcing a ban on child accounts may not be feasible, as the editor-in-chief of The Spectator magazine, Fraser Nelson, argues.
“Britain is sleepwalking into censorship and we’re running out of time to stop it,” Nelson writes.
The OSB was originally 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.”
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.
Labour MP Stella Creasy has threatened to table an amendment to the Government’s upcoming Bill of Rights to give women the “fundamental right to an abortion”.
Ms Creasy has already been instrumental in imposing abortion on Northern Ireland, promoting DIY abortion, and banning pro-life vigils around abortion clinics. Now she wants to remove any restrictions on abortion. She even wants decisions on abortion law to be taken out of the hands of elected politicians by making it a “right”.
Sign this petition calling on Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to resist any attempt to make abortion a right.
There is no right to abortion in international law. None of the nine core treaties of the United Nations recognises abortion as a human right (including the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women).
Instead, several human rights instruments recognise the right to life of children before birth. The Declaration of the Rights of the Child states: “... the child by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection before as well as after birth...”
There can be no right to end the life of an innocent unborn child.
The UK already has some of the most permissive abortion legislation in Europe. A right to abortion would make the situation here even worse. Creating an absolute “right” to abortion would logically mean removing any restrictions. The worst implications of this could include:
• The removal of any gestational limits, allowing abortion up to birth
• Abortion based on the gender of the baby
• The removal of medical safeguards, including the involvement of doctors
• Erosion of conscience rights for medical professionals
Sign this petition to tell Mr Sunak not to make abortion a right.
The overturn of a Court decision in the United States has no direct implications for abortion law in the UK, which is regulated by Acts of Parliament. The regulation of a controversial issue such as abortion should lie with democratically elected MPs, not the courts. Robert Buckland MP, the former Justice Secretary, has warned that enshrining abortion as a right “risks bringing our courts into the political arena as in the United States”.
Tell Mr Sunak to stand up for parliamentary democracy and a true understanding of human rights, and resist any attempt to make abortion a right.
The penalty for failing to uphold the as yet unclear standard could amount to fines of 10 percent of a company’s global revenue, or even having the platform banned completely, giving tech companies a 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,” especially because it also purported to outlaw “content that is harmful to adults.”
Because of this criticism, the bill was altered and now only aims to protect children from “harmful” content and not adults. To achieve this, the OSB now requires social media firms to ban underaged children from their platforms by strengthening the age verification process.
According to the U.K.’s Telegraph, “[t]his could include the use of age verification technology that requires users to provide official identities authenticated by a third party to maintain security and privacy.”
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan cites the case of Molly Russell, a 14-year-old girl who committed suicide in 2017 after “being bombarded with self-harm content” on social media, as an example of why the new legislation is necessary.
If social media companies fail to enforce the required age limits, they will face massive fines “of up to 10 per cent of their annual global turnover.” For Meta, formally known as Facebook, “that would currently be up to $12 billion,” Donelan stated.
According to Nelson, even if the “harmful but legal” guideline is intended only for people below the age of 18, it is likely that social media companies will censor the content for everyone.
“The problem, of course, is that cyberspace does not distinguish between children and adults. Nor can it, if anonymity and privacy are to be preserved,” Nelson wrote.
Because of this, social media firms will likely not risk a fine that could bankrupt their company but, to be on the safe side, would rather just censor “harmful but legal” material outright
“If they’re fined billions for getting it wrong, why take the risk?” Nelson asked. “Why not just treat everyone as a child, without telling them?”
“This takes us back to where we started: with Britain sleepwalking into a system far harsher than anything that the EU or the US is proposing,” Nelson warned.
Sunak’s watered-down Online Safety Bill still subjects UK to most intrusive censorship regime in the free world
Speech should be legal, or illegal. Creating a third category – “legal but harmful” – creates censorship
Even now, it’s avoidable
— Fraser Nelson (@FraserNelson) December 2, 2022
Since the decision regarding what content gets censored would likely be made by bots—interactive computer programs—and algorithms, the censorship problems arising due to the new bill could be even worse than anticipated.
“Bots make mistakes all the time – but no one knows because their decisions are never made public,” Nelson stated.
He named a recent example of his publication to illustrate the problem:
The Spectator recently broadcast an interview with a Harvard fellow about the Ukraine war. It was removed (by a TikTok bot) and categorized as lacking in “integrity and authenticity”. We appealed. We lost. No explanation.
“Another obvious reality now is that more children get news from TikTok than the BBC, more adults get their news from Facebook than any newspaper – and all of it is arranged by algorithms.”
“The Government has huge power to distort these algorithms, by threatening such insanely large fines […],” the British journalist warned.
“The best option would be to outlaw the genuine nasties, and refrain from censoring the written word – as successive governments have done for centuries,” Nelson concluded.
The revised version of the OSB returned to the House of Commons on December 5 for the 3rd reading.