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Offsite Article: Online Safety Act 2023...


Link Here4th December 2023
Full story: Online Safety Act...UK Government legislates to censor social media
A summary of the current position of the UK's (anti-)pornographic internet censorship provisions

See article from decoded.legal

 

 

Updated: Sanctioned...

A suicide forum seems to be first in the cross hairs of the new UK internet censor Ofcom


Link Here11th November 2023
Ofcom is threatening to block a suicide website linked to 50 UK deaths after it said it would refuse to abide by new online censorship laws.

The website, Sanctioned Suicide is described by wiki as an internet forum known for its open discussion and encouragement of suicide and suicide methods. The forum was created in 2018 after the subreddit r/SanctionedSuicide was banned by Reddit. As of September 2022, the forum has over 25,000 members, receiving nearly 10 million page views that same month.

The BBC have been investigating the forum and reported:

We have discovered that at least six coroners have written to government departments demanding action to shut the forum down. Collating inquest reports, press articles and posts on the forum itself, we have identified at least 50 UK victims. We have learned that at least five police forces are aware of the forum, and have investigated deaths linked to it, but have been unable to take action.

The Online 'Safety' Bill, passed by Parliament last month, is due to get royal assent this week, investing Ofcom with immediate powers to take action against errant social media firms. Ofcom is due to set out its legally-enforced code of practice for firms to combat illegal harms including promoting suicide next month.

An Ofcom spokesman said:

Sites that failed to prevent users coming across such illegal material would face fines of up to 10% of their global turnover and bosses who persistently ignored warnings and requests for information could face up to two years in jail .

Operators of the site could also face up to 14 years in jail under laws against encouraging or assisting suicide including through online platforms. Because there are victims in the UK, the company bosses could be prosecuted in the UK and brought to the UK to face trial through an extradition request to the US.

Ofcom will also have powers to take out court orders that would enable it to prevent the company from gaining any access to UK users. ISPs would be then required by laws to block access to a service in the UK.

It could also order platforms hosting the site to no longer do so and require search engines and social networks to deny it any presence when users look for it.

We expect tech companies to be fully prepared to comply with their new duties when the time comes. It's a serious concern if companies say they are going to ignore the law. If services don't comply, we'll have a broad range of enforcement powers at our disposal to ensure they're held fully accountable for the safety of their users.

The forum responded to UK criticism from the BBC and Ofcom by displaying the front page message:

Hello Guest,

We will not be following or complying with the Online Safety Bill that was recently signed into law in the UK. This bill will not affect the operations of the site, nor do we have a presence in the UK to receive notice or fines that the UK Government may impose.

We would highly recommend that all users from the UK get some sort of VPN, and you should petition your lawmakers to let them know how you feel about this piece of draconian legislation.

 

Update: Blocked by Sky

31st October 2023. See article from bbc.co.uk

Sky's ISP has added the Sanctioned Suicide website to its voluntary blocking list. It is not clear what level of blocking and what blocking category the website falls into.

Sky vaguely says the forum will automatically be barred if home users are using its standard filters. The company said it had moved as quickly as possible and blocked the online forum with immediate effect.

A second ISP, TalkTalk, said the webssite had now been added to its list of inappropriate content and could also be blocked by users. TalkTalk told the BBC the site would now be blocked for any customer with its HomeSafe safety filter activated. It said it was unable to automatically block the site.

 

 Update: Self blocked

11th November 2023. See article from bbc.co.uk

A pro-suicide forum has decided to block itself from users in the UK following pressure from the British internet censor, Ofcom.

The Sanctioned Suicide forum was previously available online without any restrictions. But now the forum can now only be viewed by UK users already signed up as members.

Anyone visiting the site is now met with a banner saying content that violates the UK's new Online Safety Act will not be viewable to the British public.

It is unclear whether new users from the UK can still apply for membership. Existing members in the UK do still have access.

It will be interesting to see how many sites respond to British internet censorship by blocking themselves to British users.

 

 

Offsite Article: "You Don't Belong Here!"...


Link Here11th November 2023
Full story: Online Safety Act...UK Government legislates to censor social media
With 1500 pages outlining a mountain of suffocating red tape in the name of internet regulation, Ofcom delivers a message to small British internet companies

See article from webdevlaw.uk

 

 

Online Censorship Act...

The Online Unsafety Bill gets Royal Assent and so becomes law


Link Here29th October 2023
Full story: Online Safety Act...UK Government legislates to censor social media
The Online Safety Bill received Royal Assenton 26th October 2023, heralding a new era of internet censorship.

The new UK internet Ofcom was quick off the mark to outline its timetable for implementing the new censorship regime.

Ofcom has set out our plans for putting online safety laws into practice, and what we expect from tech firms, now that the Online Safety Act has passed. Ofcom writes:

The Act makes companies that operate a wide range of online services legally responsible for keeping people, especially children, safe online. These companies have new duties to protect UK users by assessing risks of harm, and taking steps to address them. All in-scope services with a significant number of UK users, or targeting the UK market, are covered by the new rules, regardless of where they are based.

While the onus is on companies to decide what safety measures they need given the risks they face, we expect implementation of the Act to ensure people in the UK are safer online by delivering four outcomes:

  • stronger safety governance in online firms;

  • online services designed and operated with safety in mind;

  • choice for users so they can have meaningful control over their online experiences; and

  • transparency regarding the safety measures services use, and the action Ofcom is taking to improve them, in order to build trust .

We are moving quickly to implement the new rules

Ofcom will give guidance and set out codes of practice on how in-scope companies can comply with their duties, in three phases, as set out in the Act.

Phase one: illegal harms duties

We will publish draft codes and guidance on these duties on 9 November 2023, including:

  • analysis of the causes and impacts of online harm, to support services in carrying out their risk assessments;

  • draft guidance on a recommended process for assessing risk;

  • draft codes of practice, setting out what services can do to mitigate the risk of harm; and

  • draft guidelines on Ofcom's approach to enforcement.

We will consult on these documents, and plan to publish a statement on our final decisions in Autumn 2024. The codes of practices will then be submitted to the Secretary of State for Science, Innovation and Technology, and subject to their approval, laid before Parliament.

Phase two: child safety, pornography and the protection of women and girls

Child protection duties will be set out in two parts. First, online pornography services and other interested stakeholders will be able to read and respond to our draft guidance on age assurance from December 2023. This will be relevant to all services in scope of Part 5 of the Online Safety Act.

Secondly, regulated services and other interested stakeholders will be able to read and respond to draft codes of practice relating to protection of children, in Spring 2024.

Alongside this, we expect to consult on:

  • analysis of the causes and impacts of online harm to children; and

  • draft risk assessment guidance focusing on children's harms.

We expect to publish draft guidance on protecting women and girls by Spring 2025, when we will have finalised our codes of practice on protection of children.

Phase three: transparency, user empowerment, and other duties on categorised services

A small proportion of regulated services will be designated Category 1, 2A or 2B services if they meet certain thresholds set out in secondary legislation to be made by Government. Our final stage of implementation focuses on additional requirements that fall only on these categorised services. Those requirements include duties to:

  • produce transparency reports;

  • provide user empowerment tools;

  • operate in line with terms of service;

  • protect certain types of journalistic content; and

  • prevent fraudulent advertising.

We now plan to issue a call for evidence regarding our approach to these duties in early 2024 and a consultation on draft transparency guidance in mid 2024.

Ofcom must produce a register of categorised services. We will advise Government on the thresholds for these categories in early 2024, and Government will then make secondary legislation on categorisation, which we currently expect to happen by summer 2024. Assuming this is achieved, we will:

  • publish the register of categorised services by the end of 2024;

  • publish draft proposals regarding the additional duties on these services in early 2025; and

  • issue transparency notices in mid 2025.


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