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What is the Online Safety Act?

The Online Safety Act is a new piece of legislation in the UK. It will dramatically increase the government’s powers over the internet – often in the name of child safety. However, its provisions do not work and represent part of an all-out assault on the LGBTQ+ community, will do little for child safety, will harm privacy and other rights. It is a law that doesn't work, doesn't do its job and the only way forward is for it to be sacked for good.

What parts of the internet does the Online Safety Act affect?

In short: everything. All content that can be accessed online and every website visited by UK citizens is under the scope of the Online Safety Act. It represents the greatest power-grab by a government in British history. It is totally unprecedented.

What happens if you break the law under the Online Safety Act?

The consequences of breaching the Online Safety Act can be huge. The Act empowers the regulator Ofcom to issue fines, block access to websites, and even bring criminal charges against individuals or the organisation itself. The severity of the penalty depends on the nature and extent of the breach. This could have serious implications for online platforms, especially smaller ones that might struggle to comply with the Act's requirements. Until we are successful in our campaign, it's essential for anyone operating online services, providing content online or managing platforms to understand and adhere to the guidelines outlined in the Act to avoid these potential legal and financial repercussions.

What are SACK THE ACT! calling for?

We are calling for Ministers and regulators to understand that the implementation of the Online Safety Act is about practicalities, not principles. Everyone wants children to be safer online, but this act does not do that and in its failure, is hurting the LGBTQ+ community and endangering everyone’s right to privacy. We are calling on the government to stop, review and only implement the Act when it can be done without creating negative consequences.

Why are SACK THE ACT! doing this now?

The Online Safety Act received Royal Assent on 26th October 2023 and the negative impact of these new laws are already being felt. Ofcom are now looking at how these new laws should be interpreted and implements – so now is our chance to make our voice heard and for the government to change course.

Why do you have an issue with Age Verification?

Age verification might seem like a reasonable measure to protect young users online, but it is a huge concerns for various reasons. First, implementing robust age verification systems can be technically challenging and costly for online platforms, potentially leading to privacy risks and data breaches. Furthermore, age verification can hinder access to age-appropriate information and resources for young people, such as sexual health and LGBTQ+ support. It could also infringe on users' privacy by requiring them to share sensitive personal information. Instead of age verification, we advocate for better parental controls and education to empower parents to guide their children's online activities.

Does Age Verification technology protect my privacy?

No! No one except age verification companies, trade associations and age verification campaign groups say this technology is a workable solution. The Chartered Institute for IT in the UK, the Australian Government and Liberty have each independently found that no age verification system currently available works effectively, protects privacy and provides sufficient data security.

Does Age Verification just affect porn websites?

No! It's not just porn sites that the Online Safety Act impacts. Every website will have to conduct a child safety analysis on its content and put in place measures to stop children accessing content the state deems to be unsafe. The sheer cost of doing this will mean most websites will take a heavy-handed approach, often simply delete content and removing accounts that could in any way be potentially over the line. History shows us this means LGBTQ+ content gets deleted.

We have also seen women’s health content and accounts get deleted for the same reason. Websites and social media platforms would rather de-platform and delete than risk fines, complaints and campaigns by well-funded groups.

Do you support better protection for kids online?

Yes! We want stronger protections for children online. The bitter irony is that the Online Safety Act fails at its core mission of protecting kids, yet unleashes a full-on raid on the privacy of adults.

How does the Online Safety Act impact content creators like me?

If you are a content creator, you may see your account de-platformed as a direct result of the Online Safety Act.

The Act's provisions may lead to overzealous moderation by online platforms. Content creators across various niches, whether they create educational content, entertainment, or engage in discussions on a wide range of topics, could see their accounts and content removed or restricted. This threatens their ability to freely express themselves and share their work with the online community.

For many content creators, the internet is a source of income. Overzealous implementation of the Act can jeopardize your livelihoods by impacting your ability to monetize content. This could be financially devastating for individuals and small businesses that rely on online content creation for their income.

To avoid this, content creators may self-censor to avoid potential issues, leading to a chilling effect on free expression. Fear of being mistakenly flagged or penalised may discourage individuals from exploring certain topics, even those that are important for public discourse or social awareness.

The Act's strict regulations will also stifle innovation and diversity in online content. It may lead to a homogenised online environment where platforms prioritize risk-averse content, inhibiting the growth of new and creative ideas.

In summary, the Online Safety Act's overzealous implementation can impact content creators' freedom of expression, their income, and the diversity of online content. Even if you are not part of the LGBTQ+ community, the Act's reach can still affect your online experience and the broader online culture, emphasizing the need for a balanced approach to online safety regulation.

How does the Online Safety Act affect the LGBTQ+ people in particular?

The Online Safety Act, though aimed at protecting users online, will have huge unintended consequences for the LGBTQ+ community. The Act introduces measures to regulate online content, potentially leading to overzealous moderation by social media platforms. This can result in suppressing LGBTQ+ voices and content. Many LGBTQ+ individuals use online platforms as a safe space to express themselves, access support, and connect with others who share their experiences. Excessive content removal or filtering may disproportionately impact LGBTQ+ users, silencing their voices and limiting their ability to advocate for their rights. The use of age verification also means that many people in the trans community, they will not be able to have an online identify which matches their offline life. It also leads to the risk of ‘outing’ members of the LGBTQ+ community who, for whatever reason, are not public about their gender identity of sexual orientation.

If not the Online Safety Act, then what?

We believe in the importance of online safety, but the Online Safety Act as it stands is not the best solution. Instead, we need approaches that focus on:

• Improved education: Invest in comprehensive digital literacy programs that teach individuals, especially young users, how to navigate the internet safely, identify misinformation, and protect themselves online.
• Civil and criminal law enforcement: Enforce existing laws to address online harassment, hate speech, and illegal content, ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable.
• Collaboration with experts: Engage experts, including civil liberties organisations, online communities, and user advocacy groups, in developing responsible and balanced guidelines – rather than the rush to legislate and force new laws through which characterised the government’s approach in this instance.

Would sacking the Online Safety Act make the internet more dangerous?

Sacking the Online Safety Act doesn't mean neglecting online safety; it means seeking alternative solutions that better balance safety, privacy and free expression. The current Act’s broad provisions could lead to excessive content removal, limiting free speech and endangering safe spaces, harming people’s livelihoods and risking fundamental rights including privacy – all for no meaningful improvement in child safety on or offline. To create a safer online environment, it's essential to strike a balance between safety and freedom of expression. Relying solely on the Online Safety Act will not achieve that balance and will inadvertently undermine the openness and diversity of the internet.

How would improving education be a better solution to introducing legislation?

Education is a proactive approach to online safety that empowers individuals to protect themselves – including children and empowers caregivers to help.

By effectively teaching healthy relationships, with a focus on communication, respect and consent as well as digital literacy, critical thinking, and responsible online behaviour, users can navigate the internet more safely. We will never totally stop people, including children, for accessing potentially harmful content. We instead need to give them and caregivers the tools to handle this.
This approach not only mitigates the risks associated with overzealous content moderation but also encourages a culture of responsible internet usage and a safer world offline.

I'm not LGBTQ+, does this affect me?

Yes! The Online Safety Act affects everyone, not just the LGBTQ+ community. Its impact is soon to ripple through the digital landscape. For example:

• Censorship and freedom of expression: Overzealous content moderation, as a result of the Act, will limit free speech and expression for all internet users. It can lead to the removal or restriction of content and discussions that don't necessarily pertain to LGBTQ+ issues such as maternal health, breastfeeding advice and sex education.
• Privacy concerns: Age verification and data collection measures implemented to comply with the Act can raise privacy issues for all users. Personal information may be at risk if online platforms are required to collect and store user data for verification purposes.
• Online culture: The Act's regulations can shape the overall culture and environment of the internet. Striking the right balance between safety and freedom of expression is critical, and the Act's implementation will affect this balance.

In essence, the Online Safety Act will impact all internet users, regardless of their specific community or identity, due to its influence on online content, privacy, and the overall internet.