King Charles III signs off on UK Online Safety Act, with unenforceable spying clause

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With nan assent of King Charles, nan United Kingdom's Online Safety Act has go law, 1 that nan British authorities says will "make nan UK nan safest spot successful nan world to beryllium online."

The Online Safety Act, which began successful April 2019 arsenic nan Online Harms White Paper erstwhile Theresa May served arsenic Prime Minister (before Boris, Liz and now Rishi has nan job) and was passed by Parliament successful September, intends to tame nan internet.

The rule requires tech companies to forestall forbidden contented from being distributed connected their platforms and to region it erstwhile identified. It besides seeks to forestall children from being exposed to harmful material, a extremity that demands effective online property verification. And it allows for fines of up to £18 cardinal ($21.82 million) aliases 10 percent of their world turnover, whichever is greater. It moreover includes nan anticipation of imprisoning executives whose companies neglect to comply.

"This landmark rule sends a clear connection to criminals – whether it’s connected our streets, down closed doors aliases successful acold flung corners of nan internet, location will beryllium nary hiding spot for their vile crimes," said Home Secretary Suella Braverman successful a statement.

Concern remains that 1 peculiar passage, section 122 [PDF], allows Ofcom to request that online work providers scan online communications, which would efficaciously disallow encryption.

That appears to beryllium much politically aspirational than practical: Lord Parkinson, a Digital, Culture, Media and Sport minister, acknowledged that immoderate encryption bypass would person to beryllium technically feasible - thing that has been tried for decades now pinch nary advancement because math doesn't bend to governmental whims.

While location was a statement past period by Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay that "There is nary volition by nan Government to weaken nan encryption exertion utilized by platforms…", nan Act's connection could still beryllium interpreted successful a measurement that precludes backstage communication.

A spokesperson for Signal told The Register that nan company's position, arsenic articulated by CEO Meredith Whittaker past month, remains unchanged.

"Signal will ne'er undermine our privateness promises & nan encryption they trust on," said Whittaker. "Our position remains firm: we will proceed to do immoderate we tin to guarantee group successful nan UK tin usage Signal. But if nan prime came down to being forced to build a backdoor, aliases leaving, we'd leave."

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Off pinch nan fairies

As pinch Disneyland's declare to beryllium "the happiest spot connected Earth," nan UK's position arsenic nan eventual net safe haven should not beryllium accepted without evidence, though measurements whitethorn commence erstwhile nan rules return afloat effect astatine nan extremity of 2026 - barring delays.

That's improbable to hap successful afloat earlier nan extremity of 2026.

Ofcom, nan UK telecom watchdog, says it will statesman consultation connected forbidden harms (e.g. violent content, kid intersexual maltreatment material, and fraud), nan first of 3 codes of practice, connected 9 November. Once that process concludes, Parliament must o.k. nan forbidden harms codes, an arena expected to hap astir a twelvemonth from now.

In December, consultation will commence for a 2nd group of codes covering kid safety, pornography, and protecting women and girls. Final guidance for that group of rules isn't owed until early 2025, pinch Parliamentary support and enforcement scheduled for Q3 2025, by which clip nan UK is almost definite to person a caller authorities - fixed that nan existent 1 is astir arsenic celebrated arsenic a rattlesnake successful a piñata.

Finally, a 3rd consultation will statesman successful Q2 2024 that reside nan duties of covered services, which will see nan publication of transparency reports and nan deployment of personification controls, and yet fraudulent advertizing and transparency notices. That group of rules isn't expected to travel into effect until 2026.

X, nan societal media work formerly known arsenic Twitter, precocious cut contented moderation staff, arsenic did Alphabet, Amazon, and Meta. Compliance obligations for nan Online Safety Act whitethorn reverse that trend. ®