Blackmail risks posed by the Online Safety Bill

An expert has warned that the Government’s Online Safety Bill could expose adults to internet blackmail. Matthew Lesh, head of public policy at the Institute of Economics, says that features designed to protect people can backfire.

He told GB News: “[There are] a lot of core privacy threats, the notion that to access much of the pornography you have to identify yourself with the site – that risks creating a giant honeypot, a dangerous huge basis for the database of adult viewing habits of these people added to their identity. “

He made the above comments in an interview with Tom Harwood on GB News this morning (March 17).

Lesh added that the law could cause users to try to break new rules by using Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) and could cause mass blocking of websites for all users.

He said: “Of course, it will encourage people to use VPN as a tip to try to get over it. It can lead to large-scale blocking, of overseas websites choosing not to comply with the UK’s rather arbitrary rules. We don’t know exactly how this will play out in practice and the Government is also very vague about this. To use basically any website, any platform, but assuming Google, that Google wants to show you things that may not necessarily be appropriate for people under 18, Google Search can may need to ask you to sign in and verify your identity and let them know what content is appropriate to show you…”

Lesh said the Government appeared to be making similar mistakes in the past.

“This has been done before, the Government tried to enact pornography laws a few years ago, they ended up repealing them and overturning the law.”

His comment came like tech boss face the threat of prosecution and up to two years in prison if they obstruct a media watchdog investigation from next year, according to a wide-ranging overhaul of an online safety bill that brings turning point.

The government has reduced the 22-month criminal prosecution grace period for senior managers from two years to just two months, meaning tech bosses could face charges as early as next year.

The change was announced as the government released an amended online safety bill that mandates concern across social media platforms and search engines to protect users from harmful content. The new measures include:

New criminal offenses in England and Wales include cyber breaching activity, engaging in digital “attacks” and posting threatening social media posts. Major platforms must address specific categories of legal but harmful content, which can include racist abuse and posts related to eating disorders. Sites hosting pornography must perform age test about people trying to access their content.

The updated legislation introduced into parliament on Thursday confirms and sets out UK-wide proposals for fines or imprisonment of senior managers who fail to guarantee an “accurate and timely” response. for information requests from the regulator Ofcom.

It introduces two new criminal offenses that apply to companies and employees: forging information requested by Ofcom; and obstructing or delaying surveillance raids, inspections, and inspections. A third new criminal offense will apply to employees who provide false information during an interview with a supervisory agency.

Nadine Dorries, culture secretary, said tech companies have not been held accountable when abusive and criminal behavior “riots” on their platforms. Referring to the algorithms that govern what users see on social media platforms that were heavily criticized during the bill’s review process, she added: “With all the direct risks, online, it’s just that we guarantee the same basic safeguards for the digital age. If we don’t act, we risk sacrificing the welfare and innocence of countless generations of children to the power of unbridled algorithms. “

The law’s duty of care applies to internet companies that host user-generated content such as Twitter, Facebook, and TikTok, and Search engines like Google.


It is divided into several categories including: restricting the distribution of illegal content such as terrorist material, child sexual abuse images and hate crimes; protect children from harmful content; and for the largest platforms, protecting adults from legal but harmful content, potentially including racist abuse and eating disorder-related content.

Priority categories of legal but harmful content, which tech companies will be required to police, will be regulated in secondary legislation. The government argues this means the definition of harmful content will not be left to tech executives. However, civil liberties groups fear this will give ministers the power to censor content. On Wednesday, the Open Rights Group called the bill an “Orwellian censorship machine.”

Companies that breach the act will face fines levied by Ofcom of up to 10% of global revenue, which in the case of Facebook’s parent company would be close to $12 billion (£9.2 billion). ) or £18 million, whichever is higher. The watchdog will also have the power to block websites and apps under the bill, which is expected to become law later this year.

Other changes in the bill include giving users on the largest social media sites the option to block anonymous accounts, in a move designed to combat online trolls. The major tech companies will provide a “risk assessment” to Ofcom, in which they will detail how their platforms could harm users, including the operation of algorithms and systems. they have to prevent such harm. Blackmail risks posed by the Online Safety Bill

Fry Electronics Team

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