The Online Safety Bill is not fit for purpose, say IT experts

Tech experts are concerned about the workability of the cybersecurity bill, with only a small minority believing it is currently fit for purpose, according to an IT industry survey.

A study carried out by BCS, the Chartered Institute for IT, found that 58% of IT experts surveyed believed that the bill would also have a negative impact on freedom of expression.

The bill is designed to force social media platforms to tackle online harm on their sites by imposing a duty on them to protect users and develop systems to identify and remove harmful, illegal material, as well as make clear how they plan to tackle other legal but harmful content.

But according to the BCS study, only 14% believe the legislation is fit for purpose, with 46% saying it was not workable and the rest unsure.

In response to the findings, the head of BCS, the IT industry trade body, said the government should “fundamentally review” the bill in its current form.

The proposed legislation had been moving through parliament before the summer recess but has now been delayed until MPs return in September and the new prime minister is in place.

It has become a controversial topic after finding itself at the center of a tug-of-war between online safety campaigners on the one hand, who believe more needs to be done to protect people, especially children, from the abundance of harmful content online, and , on the on the other side, free speech advocates who see the bill as an enabler of online censorship.

Having been in the making for more than five years, the bill has passed through several different governments and ministers overseeing it, meaning it has been expanded and reshaped on several occasions as priorities and key issues have changed.

The result is a bill that advocates on all sides are unhappy with, either because it takes too long to implement, or is seen as too broad or too strict.

And that uncertainty is now emerging among industry experts, according to the BCS figures – with just 19% of respondents saying they believed the bill would make the internet safer.

Only 9% said they were confident the “legal but harmful” aspect of the bill would work properly.

BCS said it received nearly 1,300 responses from technical professionals to the survey.

Rob Deri, chief executive of BCS, said: “There is a real need to prevent online harm, but this law only goes part way towards trying to achieve that.

“The aim should be to prevent hate and offensive behavior online, by stopping harmful material appearing online in the first place – and that requires a mix of both technical and societal change.

“A new prime minister should take the opportunity to review the cyber security bill in its current form.

“Technology itself has an important role to play in keeping people safe on social media platforms.

“But the bill relies too much on technological solutions to prevent unwanted content, which cannot be trusted to do that well enough and can affect freedom of expression and privacy in ways that are unacceptable in a democratic society.

“The legislation should also focus on comprehensive digital education and counseling programs so that young people and their parents can safely navigate the risks of social media throughout their lives.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.