The UK Parliament voted in favour of the Online Safety Bill. The controversial legislation includes a number of measures aimed at protecting children online, including weakening end-to-end encryption. The legislation has been subject to significant criticism.
The UK House of Commons approved the bill, which will soon become law. Technology Minister Michel Donnellan said he was proud of the law for implementing a zero-tolerance policy on child protection. The law will be enforced by Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator.
The Online Safety Bill consists of a package of measures primarily targeting internet and social media companies. For example, these companies will be required to verify the age of their users and “take steps to ensure that children do not come into contact with harmful content“. Importantly, companies must take robust measures to ensure that ‘illegal content’ is removed immediately and does not appear on the platform in the first place. In addition, companies are expected to create filters for harmful content that parents can set for their children. Failure to comply with the law can result in fines of up to 10% of a company’s annual global turnover imposed by the regulator.
The law has been criticized several times over the past year. One of the key points of contention was the specific requirement to screen encrypted content for harmful content, such as child abuse. Experts have argued for years that end-to-end encryption cannot be compromised in this way. Several companies, including Apple and Facebook, threatened to pull their chat apps from the UK if the law was passed. Subsequent amendments to the law have relaxed this requirement somewhat. Recently, it has become clear that the law will not be enforced until tools exist to decrypt end-to-end chats.