Prison sentences for tech bosses if children not kept safe online

17/01/2023 | The Guardian

Ahead of the Online Safety Bill's third reading in Parliament, the government has agreed to change the proposed legislation to include the Safety Duties Protecting Children clause after it became apparent Rishi Sunak was facing the prospect of defeat in a Commons vote on Tuesday. 

The Open Rights Group (ORG) warns freedom of expression is at risk if the government moves forward with plans to make senior managers at technology companies criminally liable for repeated breaches of their duty of care to children, which could result in up to two years in prison. Without definition, tech companies will not know what they are being held liable for and won't know what content should be taken down. As a consequence, the fear of jail sentences will lead to over-moderation, where lawful content is removed. ORG has also posted a third reading briefing document outlining the unexpected consequences of the "surveillance, prior restraint of speech, and restriction on access to online content and services" measures contained within the bill.

UPDATE: 170123 -  The Guardian reports Culture secretary Michelle Donelan confirmed the bill will be amended to hold tech companies criminally liable for failing to protect children. Donelan said the change cover cases where senior managers had “consented or connived in ignoring enforceable requirements, risking serious harm to children”. 

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