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UK passes online safety bill that stirred encryption concerns UK passes online safety bill that stirred encryption concerns

UK passes online safety bill that stirred encryption concerns

UK lawmakers emphasized that metaverse and its associated environments are within the bill's scope. 

UK passes online safety bill that stirred encryption concerns

Cover art/illustration via CryptoSlate. Image includes combined content which may include AI-generated content.

U.K.’s Online Safety Bill passed its last parliamentary reading on Sept. 19 and is ready to become law, according to a Sept. 20 statement.

The bill is designed to protect children from harmful and illegal internet content. It requires social media companies to create measures to boost online freedom and safety. Per the press statement:

“The bill takes a zero-tolerance approach to protecting children and makes sure social media platforms are held responsible for the content they host.”

The Secretary of State for Technology, Michelle Donelan, described the bill as game-changing legislation making the “U.K. the safest place in the world to be online.” Donelan added:

“Our common-sense approach will deliver a better future for British people, by making sure that what is illegal offline is illegal online. It puts protecting children first, enabling us to catch keyboard criminals and crack down on the heinous crimes they seek to commit.”

In July, U.K. lawmakers had emphasized the need to include the metaverse and its associated environments within the bill’s scope.

Encryption under threat?

The bill had drawn severe criticism from several major technological companies about eroding digital privacy and granting increased state surveillance.

Tech giant Apple urged the government to amend the bill to protect encryption because it “is a critical capability that protects the privacy of journalists, human rights activists, and diplomats. It also helps citizens defend themselves from surveillance, identity theft, fraud, and data breaches. The Online Safety Bill seriously threatens this protection and could put U.K. citizens at greater risk.”

In response, the U.K. government reportedly said companies could implement end-to-end encryption if they could simultaneously ensure that their platforms would not be used to spread illegal content like animal abuse, child abuse, and others.

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