The UK Enacts a New Law Restricting Internet Content

The Parliament of the United Kingdom approved new and controversial legislation governing the supervision and control of websites and their content, primarily social networks such as Meta (formerly Facebook), TikTok, and content sites such as YouTube. The declared purpose of the legislation is to “make Britain the safest place in the online world, especially for children”, according to one of the members of the Lords who promoted the law.

The law will require websites to remove illegal content quickly or prevent it from being presented in the first place. The law will also prohibit the presentation of content that is offensive or inappropriate to minors and will require websites to set up mechanisms to verify the age of the user. Social networks will be required to introduce increased transparency about the inherent risks for minors in the use of social networks, among other things through the publication of risk reviews. Websites will be required to develop tools to allow users to filter offensive content. Separately, the law also increases the punishment for sharing intimate photos without consent, including Deep Fake photos.

The legislation designates the British Office of Communications – Ofcom – as the main regulator of Internet content, authorized to impose significant fines for violations of the law: up to 18 million pounds or 10% of the company’s global turnover, whichever is higher.

Many organizations, including associations that promote an open Internet and online freedom of speech, criticized the law’s censorial approach. The founder of Wikipedia called the law “bad for internet safety” and “bad for human rights” and pledged that under no circumstances would Wikipedia set up an age verification mechanism or censor articles.

Click here to read about the Online Safety Bill.

Click here to read the review published by associations promoting an open internet and freedom of expression online.