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Government Assures Public It Will Not Utilize Authorities in Online Safety Bill for Scanning Messaging Platforms

The UK government has stated that it will not utilize the powers granted by the Online Safety Bill to scan messaging apps for harmful content. They claim that the necessary technology does not yet exist.

Lawmakers have announced that the clause in the upcoming online safety laws that would have allowed regulators access to private messages sent using end-to-end encryption will not be enforced.

Tech companies like Signal have hailed this as “a victory,” although concerns remain that encryption-breaking surveillance could still be introduced in the future.

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The final stages of the bill will grant Ofcom, the communications regulator, the power to regulate the internet. Ofcom traditionally regulates sectors such as TV, radio, phone services, and postal services.

“If the appropriate technology doesn’t exist which meets those requirements, then Ofcom will not be able to use clause 122 to require its use,” said Lord Parkinson.

“This bill will establish a vital regulatory framework making the internet safe for all, particularly for children. We are now closer than ever to achieving that important goal,” he said.

“Companies will be required to implement protections against illegal content on their services or face significant fines within months of the bill’s approval,” he added.

Conservative Peer Lord Moylan has previously expressed concerns about handing powers to unaccountable regulators, stating that it is offensive to democratic principles.

During the House of Lords debate, Lord Moylan noted that the Bill does not address the potential breach of end-to-end encryption. He questioned why such powers were granted if encryption-breaking surveillance was not intended.

Activists, including Amnesty International, have labeled Clause 122 as a “spy clause” due to concerns about potential mass surveillance of private digital communications by the private sector.

WhatsApp and Signal have long criticized the bill for compromising user privacy and security. They welcome the latest development and have threatened to cease operations in the UK.

“That was as true last year as it is today. WhatsApp will never break our encryption and remains vigilant against threats to do so,” they added.

Meredith Whittaker, President Of Signal, stated that while this is not a complete victory, it is still significant. The guidance for implementation will heavily impact Ofcom’s framework, making it a positive outcome.

In March, Meredith Whittaker, President Of Signal, warned that the bill contains provisions that could undermine encryption and facilitate mass surveillance, severely limiting communication outside of government interference.

The upcoming bill will require Google, X (formerly known as Twitter), Meta (formerly Facebook), and others to adhere to a code of conduct overseen by Ofcom. They will also be required to remove “legal, but harmful” content.

On Wednesday, Technology Secretary Michelle Donelan announced that social media firms must deactivate accounts of underage children or face fines.

According to Ofcom, despite the minimum age requirement (13 for most social media sites), a significant percentage of children below this age range have social media profiles.

Ms. Donelan highlighted the importance of setting children up for success and stated that failure to comply with regulations could result in massive fines and potential criminal liability for social media companies.

The Epoch Times has reached out to the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport for comment.

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