Protecting Users Online: Things You Need to Know About the Online Safety Bill
The world of social media has attracted many people of different ages. In global social media research in 2021, statistics show that 53.6% of the world’s population uses social media. Users spend an average of 2 hours and 25 minutes daily on social media.
As the power of social media continuously strengthens, protecting the users, especially the children, is a must. The United Kingdom (UK) national government already published the Online Safety Bill, which will be part of the internet laws.
The World of Social Media
Social media is believed to have started in the early 2000s, where the site MySpace gained its one million active users in 2004. In the succeeding years, various social media platforms emerged, attracting more people to join. Due to competition, leading sites like MySpace and Friendster slowly vanished since users shifted to the new media platforms.
Fast forward to 2018, the number of people using social media increased drastically. Statistics show that the estimated monthly active users for Facebook are 2.26 billion, YouTube has 1.9 billion, and WeChat and Instagram are tied at 1 billion.
With the data mentioned above, there is also data for user demographics. Our World in Data stated that, in general, younger people are more likely to use social media than older people. 73% of the Snapchat users are under 25 years old, while only 3% of the users are over 65 years old. Since social media is composed of mostly young people, it increases the need for internet laws such as the Online Safety Bill.
Government Drafts the Online Safety Bill
In Queen Elizabeth’s speech, she mentioned the government’s plans for the Online Safety Bill. BBC News stated that the bill is “especially” prepared for keeping children safe in social media.
The Online Safety Bill, previously known as the Online Harms Bills, has been made by the UK government for two years. The bill aims to protect children, especially those who might be grooming victims, revenge porn, hate speech, child abuse, posts related to suicide, and eating disorders. The coverage is extended to terrorism, disinformation, racist abuse, and pornography. However, the bill will not include fraud in advertising, emails, or cloned websites.
Another news article from GOV.UK states that the landmark added new measures to the bill, safeguarding the freedom of expression and democracy online. Ofcom has the power to block access to sites and charge companies up to £18 million or 10% of annual global turnover if they fail to comply with the bill’s provisions. Further provisions will also be implemented to address prolific online scams like romance fraud to ensure that children are safe on the internet.
How the Online Safety Bill Works
David Banks from The Exeter Daily UK explained how the Online Safety Bill works. As mentioned earlier, Ofcom could charge companies if they do not follow the provisions. However, if that does not work, the senior managers of the said company could be personally held responsible for their violations. David Banks then clarified that this part of the bill was postponed, but it can be implemented if needed.
Despite having the law to protect the people, there is still a need to protect ourselves from cybercrimes. Many people have been using VPN services to protect their personal information.
Importance of Internet Governance
The Internet Governance Project from Georgia Tech defined “internet governance” as a set of rules, policies, standards, and practices for global cyberspace. As the internet enabled people to expand their capabilities, it also gave way for new forms of crime. Users of social media are vulnerable to scams since the suspects can quickly get away by deleting their accounts.
Internet governance is not limited to user protection. It also includes policies such as digital trade, privacy and surveillance, free expression online, etc. The people who create and implement internet governance are not limited to the government. It also includes private sectors, education groups, organizations, forums, and initiatives.
UNESCO emphasized the importance of internet governance as cyberspace can foster sustainable human development, inclusivity, and freedom of expression. Internet governance can help ensure that cyberspace is safe and ethical, especially in dealing with culture and language.
Although the Online Safety Bill is not yet a law, it can make the internet safer for children. Although censorship is an existing feature, there is still a need to protect children from all cybercrimes. The UK government is committed to establishing a strong digital regulation while ensuring that people still have freedom of speech.
There has been a growing significance of internet governance since more than half of the world’s population engages in various forms of social media. Internet governance not only protects the users but also ensures that respect is present in all aspects. Internet governance also protects the freedom of speech and discussion. The government must ensure that human rights are kept and that the cyber community remains ethical.
Cooperation from the government, private sectors, organizations, and the community is essential for implementing internet laws. Initiatives and forums are helpful as well in shaping cyberspace. It will ensure that everyone is educated of their rights and knows where and who to reach out to when they need help.
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