Accidental dystopian makes UK censorship bill even worse
A British member of parliament (MP) has proposed an amendment to the already controversial Online Safety Bill and managed to make it even more oppressive and invasive. John Penrose, the Conservative MP who represents the people of Weston-super-Mare in south west England, joined the debate over the bill on Friday July 8 and proposed an addition. His suggestion for amending the UK’s proposed internet censorship legislation has horrified civil liberties organisations. Reclaim The Net (RTN) claimed that Britain’s proposed law “continues to get even more Orwellian with each new proposed amendment”.
“We do not doubt the good intentions of those behind the Bill,” the Free Speech Union has said, “but under the guise of keeping us ‘safe’ it poses a serious risk to freedom of expression. No one should be banned by social media for exercising their lawful right to free speech.” That was before Penrose’s intervention however. Last week the MP mooted the idea that the government force online platforms, such as Facebook, to maintain a score of how truthful a person is, determined by their past statements. “The purpose of this section is to reduce the risk of harm to users of regulated services caused my (sic) disinformation or misinformation,” the proposal states.
“The typo in the proposal shows just how much care goes into the wording of legislation that wipes away citizens’ freedoms,” said Dan Frieth of Reclaim the Net. The proposal says that every user that produces online content, including “comments and reviews” and who receives a certain, as yet undecided, number of online views, should have their content indexed and assigned a ‘truth score’, which will be displayed wherever they go online. Tackling “misinformation” has been used as a justification for censorship and the idea of regulators suppressing the free speech of citizens has become normalised, said RTN.
Therein rubs the lies
The UK’s proposed new legislation was meant to force social media companies to tackle disinformation by foreign adversaries like Russia. Digital Secretary Nadine Dorries said the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine has proven how Russia uses social media to spread lies. “We cannot allow foreign states or their puppets to use the internet to conduct hostile online warfare unimpeded,” Dorries said. “That’s why we are strengthening our new internet safety protections to make sure social media firms identify and root out state-backed disinformation.”
Big Tech is watching you
The ‘truth score’ legislation, which could pass into an Act of Parliament during the current parliamentary session, will be an amendment to the Online Safety Bill and National Security Bill. It would require media regulator Ofcom to create codes of practice to ensure social media companies like Facebook, Twitter and Youtube owner Alphabet will comply and to issue fines for non-compliance. Do social media platforms have the trust of the public? Meanwhile Ofcom, an ‘unelected quango’ according to the FSU, has already issued guidelines on implementing the new regulations, on the assumption that the bill will be passed.