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Wikipedia labels the Online Safety Bill ‘harsh’

Wikipedia has labelled the Online Safety Bill as ‘harsh’. Picture: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP

Wikipedia has labelled the Online Safety Bill as ‘harsh’. Picture: Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP

Published Jan 18, 2023


Wikipedia has labelled the Online Safety Bill “harsh”.

The online volunteer-run encyclopedia has condemned the UK government’s attempt to bring in protections against harmful online content and called it a “limit freedom of expression”.

Rebecca MacKinnon from the Wikimedia Foundation, the non-profit group that hosts the site, told BBC News about their fear for sites without huge resources like Meta’s Instagram, Facebook or Elon Musk’s Twitter.

MacKinnon says the “harsh” criminal penalties the bill proposes will affect not only big corporations, but also public interest websites such as Wikipedia.

She advocated the UK to follow the EU’s Digital Services Act, which she says separates the difference between tech giants and community-minded business models like Wikipedia.

The government argued in return that the bill was made with the desire to tackle harm by huge tech giants and sites like Wikipedia.

A spokesperson said: “Ofcom (Office of Communications, UK) will take a reasonable and proportionate approach when monitoring and enforcing the safety duties outlined in the bill, focusing on services where the risk of harm is highest."

Lawyers have suggested making the bill – which has been delayed because of division within the ruling Conservative party. Neil Brown, a solicitor working in telecoms and internet law, told the outlet: “The bill, and the amendment, would impose pages of duties on someone who, for fun, runs their own social media or photo/video sharing server, or hosts a multi-player game which lets players chat or see each other’s content or creations.”

He thinks the bill being made to target massive companies making millions of pounds would make it easier to “remove the burden and threat to hobbyists and volunteers”.

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