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UK tightens Online Safety Bill to shield children from adult content

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The UK government announced significant updates to its Online Safety Bill, focusing on enhanced protections to prevent children from accessing adult content online.

These revisions, made following the parliamentary debates, aim to establish higher standards for age verification tools used by platforms that publish or allow adult content. The goal is to ensure that these tools effectively determine whether a user is a child.

The legislation, which the tech industry has closely monitored, seeks to strike a delicate balance between safeguarding social media users, particularly children, from harmful content while upholding principles of free speech. By holding top executives personally accountable for ensuring the safety of children on their platform, the government aims to instil a greater sense of responsibility within the industry.

Paul Scully, the Minister for Tech and the Digital Economy expresses the government’s commitment to protecting children online, stating, “This government will not allow the lives of our children to be put at stake whenever they go online, whether that is through facing abuse or viewing harmful content that could go on to have a devastating impact on their lives.”

Aside from measures to prevent children from accessing harmful content, the updated bill includes provisions that grant regulators access to information about a child’s social media usage if requested by a coroner. This measure aims to assist bereaved families in understanding the potential influence of online activities in cases of tragic deaths.

However, the tech industry, including companies like Apple, has raised concerns about certain aspects of the Online Safety Bill. In particular, provisions that could require messaging services to break end-to-end encryption to scan for child abuse material have been criticised.

The Online Safety Bill is currently in the House of Lords, where lawmakers can propose amendments before deciding whether to pass or reject the legislation. The bill, which has been in the works for several months, is still some time away from being enacted.

On June 12, the UK government announced that Google DeepMind, OpenAI, and Anthropic agreed to provide them access to their AI models to ensure safe implementation.

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Kumar Hemant

Deputy Editor at Candid.Technology. Hemant writes at the intersection of tech and culture and has a keen interest in science, social issues and international relations. You can contact him here: [email protected]