back to article Campaigners warn of an 'algorithm-driven censorship' future if UK Online Safety Bill gets through Parliament

MPs and anti-censorship campaigners have warned that the British government's Online Safety Bill "mistakes the medium for the message" and will result in algorithms censoring anyone who posts something on social media that could get a Silicon Valley company into trouble. The newly formed group, under the slogan "legal to type …

  1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    An old joke

    A women is handing out blank sheets of paper in Red Square

    The KGB arrest her for sedition

    But the paper was blank says one, - yes but we know what she meant

    1. alain williams Silver badge

      Re: An old joke

      The new 'joke' should be set in China.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: An old joke

        But nobody knows what the Chinese secret service is called - isn't that sinister?

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: An old joke

          It can be any organisation or individual - China's 2017 National Intelligence Law mandates that Chinese intelligence agencies "may ask relevant institutions, organizations and citizens to provide necessary support, assistance and cooperation.".

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: An old joke

            By letter, nationally ? in a security way ?

        2. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Re: An old joke

          Ministry of State Security.

          中华人民共和国国家安全部

          More sinister is your claim.

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: An old joke

            >More sinister is your claim.

            It's a line from a Bond movie villain (Tomorrow Never Dies)

            1. gandalfcn Silver badge

              Re: An old joke

              So? It was still total bollocks wasn't it.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: An old joke

        Good luck, and goodbye...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: An old joke

      Something tells me the old joke would play equally 'well' today. Same place, same country, same / new woman, but same result.

      ...

      very soon to be followed in the UK, apparently, eh?

      1. gandalfcn Silver badge

        Re: An old joke

        Never Trust a Tory!

        1. P. Lee

          Re: An old joke

          Particular party affiliation is not a prerequisite for stupidity.

          Never trust people who want more control over you.

          1. gandalfcn Silver badge

            Re: An old joke

            "“88% of ads posted recently by the Conservatives contained content that has already been deemed misleading " o% for Labour.

            I see a pattern with the Tories. And the GOP.

  2. elsergiovolador Silver badge

    End of internet for all

    Someone said that if you legislate as if only Facebook and Co existed, you will only get Facebook and Co to exist.

    Nobody is going to start a forum or alternative social network without having access to big funding now.

    It almost seems like these law propositions were designed by these big companies and given to politicians to get them through.

    I don't think they have a safety of the public in mind, but rather they want to make sure only a select few platform exist and continue to make money using their position.

    I think more damaging to the society is the fact how those big companies avoid paying taxes. But that's not on their priority list, right? Big company gets upset and stops donating, whereas if the budget is missing money, one can always raise workers' taxes.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: End of internet for all

      In economics it's known as "Bootlegger and Baptist" the people most vocally campaigning for stricter laws aren't the do-gooders, it's the criminals that benefit from the demand and the police removing the

      competition.

      It's why giant car companies campaign for stricter safety and emissions rules.

      1. DiViDeD Silver badge

        Re: End of internet for all

        Same reason that tobacco companies, who have traditionally opposed any form of regulation on their industry, are all gung ho for the regulation of vaping - who has the deeper pockets when it comes to getting certification for their products?

    2. Infused

      Re: End of internet for all

      Yes. They'll have a cosy relationship with Ofcom (who recently rejected Paul Dacre, former Daily Mail editor as chairman, but appointed an ex-Amazon employee as chief technology officer). I've mentioned it in another reply but a former Ofcom employee was discussing this in the Regulate Tech podcast. He said that this bill will almost certain affect the more "egregious" platforms (e.g. your Bitchutes & your Gabs). The big boys are already 95% compliant. I also listened to an Internet Society webinar & one participant thought that the tech giants would welcome this as it stops them doing the wrong thing all the time. Plus regulation tends to favour the incumbents & stifle start-ups. I certainly think the silence of Silicon Valley is indicative.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: End of internet for all

        Thing is its likely the Online Safety Bill could collapse under its own weight like other bills before it.

    3. gandalfcn Silver badge

      Re: End of internet for all

      Never Trust a Tory - or a GOPer

      1. P. Lee

        Re: End of internet for all

        Much of both parties have gone Left.

        Dump the Woke - I don't care what party they're in.

        1. DiViDeD Silver badge

          Re: End of internet for all

          Left? You're an american (and quite likely a boomer), aren't you?

          Anything to the left of Attila the Hun is 'commie', eh?

          1. gandalfcn Silver badge

            Re: End of internet for all

            A semi[literate Septic. The original woke cancel culture. but they're too dumb to realise it.

            1. idiot taxpayer here again

              Re: End of internet for all

              @gandalfon

              Semi literate septic? Hmmm,

        2. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Re: End of internet for all

          Do you post in English as well?

        3. gandalfcn Silver badge

          Re: End of internet for all

          “Thinking of lies I heard from an American academic who reported a 70% reduction of lies/disinformation etc. on twitter et al after Trump was banned?

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Look at last time.

    Its hard to say if they will be able to get it up and running in the first place because look at what happen to age verification it was delayed over and over again until it was scraped because they just could not find a way to get it up and running, its easy to see that the Online Safety Bill could also collapse under its own weight.

    1. Zippy´s Sausage Factory
      Devil

      Re: Look at last time.

      But this bill makes other people responsible for doing things. So instead of actually trying to comply with the legislation, the companies will just do the absolute minimum work required while looking for loopholes to give themselves wriggle room should the government try to fine them.

      If it makes any genuine difference, they'll threaten to shut down in the UK which will panic businesses enough that they will pressure the government... continue until the government makes the nasty law go away.

      I'd say I'm being cynical but I'm no longer sure if that's true.

      1. Infused

        Re: Look at last time.

        I listened to a podcast with a former employee of Ofcom discussing the OSB (the Regulate Tech podcast). He said that, yes, it is fully expected that medium-sized companies will probably not be able to afford the compliance costs & will likely withdraw from the UK. The bill's extra'-territorially reach is extraordinary. Any kind of service that can be accessed by someone from the UK will be in scope. Expect massive geoblocking. Using a VPN? If enough people use them to evade it, expect further government action. That's what he replied when I asked him on Twitter. He did highlight the risk of this accelerating the splinternet as other countries do the same though.

        1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

          Re: Look at last time.

          Let's not forget the EU's TERREG that has recently passed (without a vote). It's also extra-territorial in a more reaching manner than GDPR and required social media companies to delete questionable content with 1hr SLA and they also require a company to setup EU legal presence for censorship purposes.

          1. P. Lee

            Re: Look at last time.

            Relocate to Florida - now more Texan than Texas.

            Based Grandma will save you!

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Look at last time.

          Thing is this bill is likely to fall apart before it affects medium-sized companies or any companies and its very hard to ban VPNs. There also talk the bill may be stuck in Pre-legislative scrutiny until december because its been drafted so badly and may mess up alot of trade deals with the US and EU and it may go through a judicial review.

          1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

            Re: Look at last time.

            It is very easy to ban VPNs, sure it will not work completely, but vast majority of people will be too afraid of having a criminal record for using one.

            They could go as far as telling police to stop and search people and look for VPN on their phones or personal computers.

            They just need a convincing propaganda that people who use VPNs are criminals. Very similar mechanism is already in place against people using certain substances.

            1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

              Re: Look at last time.

              It is very easy to ban VPNs if you don't mind stopping everyone from working from home. In the current situation, that might be something you minded, particularly if you had just spaffed a squillion pounds on Dido and her cronies and sent several sectors of the economy off a (white) cliff.

              1. elsergiovolador Silver badge

                Re: Look at last time.

                Employers would get a license to operate a VPN. Again, the law frameworks already exist...

                If someone posted something wrong online, they will have employer's IP and in the employer interest would be to have logs who accessed what and when.

                As a bonus, employers won't need an excuse to spy on employees. It will be called "compliance".

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Look at last time.

                  A license to operate a VPN would be very hard to enforce and likely fail.

    2. Infused

      Re: Look at last time.

      From what I'm seeing on Twitter from the experts & other interested parties is that safe tech companies are lobbying the government hard about verifying ID online. It won't just be age verification for porn; it could well be ID verification for all websites deemed not child friendly. The Australians have just passed their own version of the Online Safety Bill (they even called it that) so hastily it had spelling mistakes. They may well require passports & driving licenses to join social media. Yet their version of the law isn't as far-reaching as the UK's. This really is a frightening piece of legislation. It is really hard to understate how profound the impact would be to user-generated content (since that's what's affected most by this) online.

      1. martinusher Silver badge

        Re: Look at last time.

        Good for business, that. Imagine how positive verification of an Internet user will improve 'analytics'. No more creative algorithms matching systems to searches and users to systems (although these techniques might be useful for ferreting out anyone using an incorrect identity).

        Generally the 'keeping children safe' is the catch-all for any legislation that needs to compromise individual freedom. I've commented about the crackdown on child porn in the past because I saw this as the very thin end of the wedge. Needless to say, I'm not into child porn, that's irrelevant but important to state because that's the implication if you openly oppose those laws (everyone has to protect children, right?). The programmer in me saw this as developing a mechanism to track and outlaw classes of information -- once you've got a mechanism in place to enforce a ban on Information Type 'A' then its really easy to flip the switch and go after Information Types "B' through 'Z'. So a legal framework that's ostensibly designed to protect children is going to be used against adults. It will effectively be illegal to share user generated content or even possess it -- the tools are already in place.

        1. Infused

          Re: Look at last time.

          I'm not sure where we'll end up with this. One of the experts opposing this (e.g. lawyers specialising in technology, IT specialists, etc.) have stated that the language used in the bill indicates the hand of the security services & that the stated intention of the bill isn't the actual intention. It doesn't mention implementing verification or banning encryption, but both are likely strategies. With age verification you might end up with a de facto ban for under-18s. Australia has potentially mandated facial recognition. I don't foresee the banning of user-generated content or its sharing, but it will doubtless have a massive impact as companies seek to avoid huge fines. The pre-emptive scanning & filtering of private messages is likely as well (they're covered by the bill). The safeguards for free expression are weak at best. Overblocking will become the norm. People suggest a Great Firewall of China-style scenario, but it could be more like the South Korean internet. Porn is illegal & while can be found, it's a game of whack-a-mole. You need ID to use a lot of websites. There was a scandal a few years ago where people's biometric data got stolen.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Look at last time.

        ID verification is likely to fail and fall apart like last time.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    just a fucking moment

    Is this the same fucking right wing loons that whine about free speech all the fucking time.

    liar's and fucking hypocrites the lot of them.

    1. Greybearded old scrote Silver badge

      Re: just a fucking moment

      No, they spotted that one.

      They've awarded themselves free speech, along with journalists etc. Naturally any organisation publishing inconvenient truths, <cough>wikileaks</cough>, are not journalists but spies.

      Did you think they mean freedom of speech for all?

    2. TheMeerkat Bronze badge

      Re: just a fucking moment

      No. It is the “right wing loons” campaigning against the bill that the lefties with their love for censorship would always support.

      1. gandalfcn Silver badge

        Re: just a fucking moment

        "“88% of ads posted recently by the Conservatives contained content that has already been deemed misleading"

    3. SundogUK Silver badge

      Re: just a fucking moment

      Did you actually read the article? The campaign against this is headed up by David Davis - one of those '...fucking right wing loons that whine about free speech all the fucking time.'

    4. Cereberus

      Re: just a fucking moment

      It's always nice to see a well reasoned argument, based on facts, even if I disagree with the posters view.

      Unfortunately an anonymous poster spouting a load of swearing abuse just for the sake of it isn't nice to see nor does it add anything to the conversation. I am trying to work out if I feel more sorry for the OP or the people who up voted the comment.

      I could just be feeling sorry for myself for having wasted part of my life reading and then responding to this rubbish.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    And yet

    People continue to vote Tory

    1. Graham Dawson Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: And yet

      Because Labour never tried anything similar ever in their entire existence.

      Yes, that was sarcasm.

  6. ThatOne Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Algorithm-driven censorship

    > algorithm-driven censorship

    ...is the best of censorships, since it can not be challenged!

    "Computer says" is the final argument, there is no appeal and there is nobody responsible. With humans you can always ask for a second opinion or accuse somebody of bias, but with computers it's pointless, they are supposed objective and the same algorithm will always give the exact same, cleverly biased result.

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