From a Government that attempts to publicly defend free speech, the Online Safety Bill will impose sweeping new measures on social media platforms and search engines.
Defenders of the Bill say that the new measures will make Britain “the safest place in the world in which to use the internet”. However, critics argue that this is a “censor’s charter” which will rely on automated enforcement.
But algorithms are blunt tools, says Mark Johnson of Big Brother Watch, which campaigns on civil liberties. They often struggle with nuance and context. “Is an algorithm going to be able to reliably tell the difference between someone encouraging suicide and someone with postnatal depression posting about feeling suicidal on Mumsnet [a big web forum]?” With billions of dollars potentially at stake, he says, the risk is that firms will err heavily on the side of caution, leading to overzealous blocking of innocuous posts.