How the UK’s New Online Safety Bill will affect photographers around the world

The UK’s new Online Safety Bill is a major change, heralding a new, safer digital era for users. Tech giants and websites will be held accountable, and they don’t need to be based in the UK to face the huge consequences. This will affect photographers and photography websites around the world.

The UK is passing Parliament a new bill that will radically change the way the internet works, making it safer for everyone, especially children and vulnerable people. It looks like this will not only affect websites hosted in the UK, but all those that allow their content to be viewable there.

Governments around the world are watching to see how this will work, and the adoption of similar laws in other countries is likely to follow. New laws included in the bill would push website owners to have effective controls in place to limit harmful content, including hate speech, pornography and violence, and limit people’s exposure to that content. At the same time, it is designed to protect freedom of speech.

The government says that the bill has five policy goals:

  • to increase the safety of online users
  • to maintain and enhance freedom of expression online
  • to improve law enforcement’s ability to tackle illegal content online
  • to improve users’ ability to keep themselves safe online
  • to improve society’s understanding of hazardous conditions

Service providers will have a responsibility to protect the public, and they could be fined up to 10% of global revenue or up to £18 million ($23.5 million) for failing to fulfill their duty of care. Take care of your users. The companies’ senior managers would also be held criminally responsible if their businesses fail to meet the requirements of the bill.

Those punishments are meant to be a deterrent. As a result, one can expect the big tech companies to realize that other governments will soon follow suit looking at how they can comply with the new regulations as they are introduced.

Of course, this is mainly aimed at big players like Meta (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, etc.), Alphabet (Google and its subsidiaries) and ByteDance (TikTok). But it looks like it will also apply to smaller sites, including 500px, Only Fans, Twitter, Reddit, Gala, VSCO, Petapixel, and Fstoppers. It could even apply to your blog and possibly Squarespace or WordPress if they host your site.

Because the Internet evolves so quickly, the bill’s framework is designed to quickly adapt to respond to new threats. It has been continuously added since its inception; when it was first drafted, TikTok didn’t exist. Even now, as the metaverse grows rapidly, discussions are underway for that to be included in the law. I have written to my member of Congress to lobby for certain deeply falsified images used to undermine democracy or harm individuals, such as using AI to graft the victim’s face onto pornographic content.

If website owners are hosting harmful content and don’t implement controls, such as verifying age to access pornography, they will be committing a criminal offence and subject to action. punishment. The law also prohibits links to harmful or illegal content.

The bill is also making businesses that destroy evidence and obstruct the UK’s regulator, Ofcom, criminal.

I realize that in the US, this will come as a shock to some. To many people, freedom of speech seems to mean the freedom to say anything. On the other side of the Atlantic, there is a different approach, and the laws in the UK and Europe on hate speech are much stricter. Protection of other human rights and personal safety goes beyond freedom of expression; Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should.

Verbal abuse or discrimination against people with protected status, (i.e. age, disability, transgender, marriage and civil relations, pregnancy and maternity, race race, religion or creed, gender and sexual orientation) is an offense in the United Kingdom and European countries. Under this new law, instead of just people making hate comments committing crimes, sites that allow it in posts or comments will be held accountable. The new law goes beyond that. Content that is harmful but not illegal, such as promoting suicide, self-harm, or eating disorders, is also subject to criminal action.

The Internet has made our lives better. It connected us and empowered us. But on the other hand, tech companies are not held accountable when harmful, abusive and criminal behavior causes riots on their platforms. Instead, they were left to mark their own homework. With all the risks online, it makes sense that we ensure the same basic safeguards for the digital age. If we don’t act, we risk sacrificing the welfare and innocence of countless generations of children to the power of unbridled algorithms.

– Nadine Dorries, Digital Secretary

We can therefore expect websites that are accessible in the UK to allow individuals to post comments that include racist and debauchery, something that occurs in Comments section of some photography websites, will be legally binding.

There is no doubt that there are a small number of the worst offenders who think they are not in the UK and that they will be protected by their own country. In fact, there is currently no reciprocal enforcement agreement between the US and UK. However, there are extradition treaties with most other countries in the world. So in effect, people who commit crimes in the US will be jailed in their home country for fear of being extradited to face trial in the UK if they leave there. Furthermore, as other countries adopt similar laws, the US will exert greater pressure to impose parallel restrictions to protect their citizens.

Larger companies will also consider sanctions against Putin and his oligarch’s supporters in the wake of the ongoing illegal war in Ukraine and the atrocities that are being perpetrated on its people. there. These sanctions have included seizure and freezing of assets. One could expect similar sanctions to be put in place against tech companies that don’t comply. In the long run, one can expect that countries that shelter and allow offenders to post such content will also be penalized.

The new measures also prevent anonymous trolls. In the UK recently, An anonymous troll attacked a TV presenter on Twitter, was arrested, and had to pay the victim a six-figure sum.. That troll, although concealed behind a fake ID, was discovered. The latest forensic investigation methods mean that cowardly villains can no longer hide behind masquerades, and civil actions aimed at smearing will now be supported by criminal law.

The bill hopes to balance these restrictions by strengthening people’s rights and allowing free speech online. It will ensure that social media companies do not take away legitimate freedom of expression. UK users here will have the right to appeal if they believe a post has been unfairly removed. Social media companies must also protect the press and democratic political debate that takes place on their platforms.

The law will be exempt from genuine news content. However, most photography sites probably won’t fall under the news category.

Content providers may need to use more effective tools to moderate content and learning algorithms that can filter out offending content. It tells the content host to do more than rely on users to report abuse. However, that doesn’t mean online community advocates should stop helping with content moderation, as you hope now.

So how does this affect the individual photographer? Firstly, most photographers are good, kind, honest people who oppose the kind of behavior this law would criminalize so would be very welcome. In the UK, where I am based, we would benefit from a safer environment to work in. With luck, that will have a stimulating effect in other countries and will be reinforced as other countries adopt similar laws. Life is getting harder and harder for trolls who have found paradise on photography sites, which is a good thing. Eventually, attacking people from behind false identities will hopefully become a thing of the past.

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