How the United Kingdom’s New Online Safety Bill Will Affect Photographers Worldwide

How the United Kingdom’s New Online Safety Bill Will Affect Photographers Worldwide

The UK’s new Online Safety Bill is a massive change, heralding a new digital age that is safer for users. Tech giants and websites will be held to account, and they don’t have to be UK based to face the enormous consequences. This will affect photographers and photography websites around the world.

The UK is putting through Parliament a new bill that will completely change the way the internet works, making it safer for everyone, especially for children and vulnerable people. It looks as if this won’t just affect websites hosted in the UK, but all those that allow their content to be viewable there.

Governments around the world are watching to see how this will work, and the adoption of similar laws in other countries is likely to follow. The new laws written into the bill will put the onus on website owners to have effective controls in place that restrict harmful content, including hate speech, pornography, and violence, and limit people’s exposure to it. At the same time, it is designed to protect freedom of speech.

The government say that the bill has five policy objectives:

  • to increase user safety online
  • to preserve and enhance freedom of speech online
  • to improve law enforcement’s ability to tackle illegal content online
  • to improve users’ ability to keep themselves safe online
  • to improve society’s understanding of the harm landscape

It will be the service providers’ responsibility to protect the public, and they can be fined up to 10% of their global revenue, or up to £18 million GBP (approximately $23.5 million USD) for failing in their duty of care to their users. Senior managers of the companies will also be criminally liable if their businesses fail to meet the requirements of the bill.

Those punishments are significant deterrents. Consequently, one can expect the big tech companies that recognize that other governments will soon follow suit are already looking at how they can comply with the new regulations when they are launched.

This is, of course, aimed mainly at the big players like Meta (Facebook, Instagram, Messenger, WhatsApp, etc), Alphabet (Google and its subsidiaries), and ByteDance (TikTok). But it looks as if it will also apply to smaller websites too, including 500px, Only Fans, Twitter, Reddit, Gala, VSCO, Petapixel, and Fstoppers. It may even apply to your blog and maybe Squarespace or WordPress too if they host your site.

Because the Internet evolves so rapidly, the bill’s framework is designed to be quickly adapted to meet new threats. It has been constantly added to since its inception; when it was first drafted, TikTok did not exist. Even now, as the metaverse rapidly grows, discussions are underway for that to be included in the law. I have written to my member of Parliament to lobby the inclusion of certain deep fake images that are used to undermine democracy or cause harm to individuals, such as using AI to superimpose victims' faces onto pornography.

If website owners are hosting harmful content and not putting controls in place, such as age verification for accessing pornography, then they will be committing a criminal offense and subject to punitive action. The law also forbids having breadcrumbs that lead to harmful or illegal content.

This bill is also making it a criminal offense for businesses to destroy evidence and for obstructing the UK’s regulator, Ofcom.

I realize that in America, this will shock some. Freedom of speech to many there seems to mean the freedom to say anything. On the other side of the Atlantic, there is a different approach, and the laws in the UK and Europe on hate speech are much tougher. Protection of other human rights and personal safety outdoes freedom of speech; just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should.

Verbally abusing or discriminating against those with protected status, (i.e. age, disability, gender reassignment, marriage and civil partnership, pregnancy and maternity, race, religion or belief, sex, and sexual orientation) is a criminal offense in the UK and European countries. Under this new law, instead of it being only the people making hateful comments that are committing a crime, those websites that allow it in posts or comments will be liable. The new law goes beyond that. Content that is harmful but not illegal, such as promoting suicide, self-harm, or eating disorders, will be criminalized too.

The internet has transformed our lives for the better. It’s connected us and empowered us. But on the other side, tech firms haven’t been held to account when harm, abuse and criminal behaviour have run riot on their platforms. Instead, they have been left to mark their own homework.We don’t give it a second’s thought when we buckle our seat belts to protect ourselves when driving. Given all the risks online, it’s only sensible we ensure similar basic protections for the digital age. If we fail to act, we risk sacrificing the wellbeing and innocence of countless generations of children to the power of unchecked algorithms. 

- Nadine Dorries, Digital Secretary

Consequently, we can expect sites accessible in the UK that allow individuals to post comments that include misogyny and racism, something that happens in the comments sections of some photographic sites, to suffer the force of the law.

No doubt, there are a small number of the worst offenders thinking that they are not in the UK and that they will be protected by their nation. Indeed, there are currently no reciprocal enforcement agreements between the US and the UK. However, there are extradition agreements with most other countries in the world. So, in effect, offenders in the USA will be imprisoned in their own country for fear of extradition to face trial in the UK if they leave it. Furthermore, as other countries adopt similar laws, greater pressure will be placed on the US to impose parallel restrictions to protect their citizens too.

There's no escape from the law for trolls or squirrels.

Larger companies will also be looking at the sanctions placed on Putin and his oligarch supporters following the ongoing illegal war in Ukraine and the atrocities being inflicted on the people there. These sanctions have included the confiscation and freezing of assets. One can assume that similar sanctions will be put in place for tech companies that fail to comply. In the long-term, one can expect that countries that shelter and permit offenders to post such content will also be sanctioned.

The new measures also clamp down on anonymous trolls. In the UK recently, one anonymous troll attacked a TV presenter on Twitter, was caught, and had to pay the victim a six-figure sum. That troll, despite hiding behind a false ID, was found out. The latest forensic investigative methods mean that cowardly trolls can no longer hide behind fake personas, and civil actions for defamation will now be backed up by criminal law.

The bill hopes to balance these restrictions by strengthening people’s rights and allowing freedom of expression online too. It will make sure that social media companies are not removing legal free speech. UK users here will have a right of appeal if they believe a post was unfairly removed. Social media firms must also both protect journalism and democratic political debate that takes place on their platforms.

An exemption from the law will be in place for genuine news content. However, most photography sites will probably not fall into the news category.

Content providers may need to use more effective tools for content moderation, and learning algorithms are able to filter out offending content. It does require content hosts to do more than rely on users to report abuse. However, that doesn’t mean supporters of online communities should stop helping moderate content as you hopefully do now.

So, how does this affect the individual photographer? Firstly, most photographers are good, kind, honest people who object to the kind of behavior that this law will criminalize, so it will be welcomed. Here in the UK, where I am based, we will benefit by having a safer environment in which to work. With luck, that will have a knock-on effect in other countries that will be strengthened when others adopt similar laws. Life is going to become more difficult for the trolls that have found a haven on photography websites, which is a good thing. Finally, attacking people from behind fake identities will hopefully become a thing of the past.

Ivor Rackham's picture

Earning a living as a photographer, website developer, and writer and Based in the North East of England, much of Ivor's work is training others; helping people become better photographers. He has a special interest in supporting people with their mental well-being through photography. In 2023 he became a brand ambassador for the OM System

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I refuse to be beholden to any country that employs Lèse-majesté laws, as well as China's Beijing, the UAE and KSA countries. Most of the rest of these sorts of bills can and do make sense to me, I am a reasonable law abiding Canadian. 🍁

Law-abiding citizens, which encompasses most people in the world, have nothing to fear from this. The law is going to spread and be adopted by other nations. The EU is introducing a similar bill, and I can see Australasia, Canada, and other democracies probably following. There are no Lèse-majesté laws in the UK, by the way.

This basically has no effect on street photography of your following sensible logic?

Hi Eric, you are right. It has no effect on street photography. It has an effect on behaviour exhibited by internet trolls.

Interesting Ivor. Last time I posted a view that was contrary to yours, you referred to me as ‘a troll’. So does that now mean the law will affect people whose view you don’t value ?

That's not very open minded of him...

Re: "It has an effect on behaviour exhibited by internet trolls"

By cascade, right?

This is about PUBLISHERS, who are currently indemnified, yet are making a killing, so to speak, on deadly speech.


Thanks for exploring this and sharing.

Well, this is absolute horse manure in regards to affecting citizens/businesses in other countries, unless an international business has an actual presence in the UK. Even then, it would be limited to their business in the UK only. Countries cannot just impose its laws onto others. Where would that lead to? Just because it’s illegal to be gay in Russia, every other country now has to follow that law? That’s absolutely insane.

It’s fine if the UK feels the need to block traffic from other countries to “protect” its citizens but all this will do is cause more people to use VPNs. They can start to block those and we suddenly have another China/Russia. Good luck with that.

Facebook, Google and others do have a presence here. The reply I got from my MP two days ago was that any company that fails to comply will have their access to the UK blocked.

If VPN service providers allow illegal content, then I can see them falling foul of the same law too.

Europe is also introducing a similar law in the near future. It won't be long before other democracies follow.

As those big businesses are already implementing actions to comply with the law here, I think it is quite evident that it is having an effect.

By publishing harmful or illegal material in the UK, even if it's via the internet, it is breaking a law here as surely as if they were printed in a book. This would include illegal pornography, incitement to violence, terrorist materials, encouragement to self-harm, and other such obnoxious materials. This law put the onus on the service providers (Alphabet, Meta, etc.) to make sure they are not allowing it here, similar to book shops not being allowed to sell those illegal books.

The important fact is that if the charge is criminal, then there is the possibility of the UK asking for a warrant for the arrest of the alleged offender and his/her extradition to the UK. This happens all the time internationally between countries and will vary in law and process depending on the content of the extradition treaty and local laws. Usually the alleged crime has to have a counterpart in the other jurisdiction. For example, an allegation of child pornography made in the UK would require the country where the alleged offender resides, to have a similar child pornography law. As an aside, the US constitutional right to free speech MAY mean that the US is slow to accept criminal allegations where the argument is that free speech is constitutionally protected and does not equate to a US criminal matter. The outcome will obviously turn on both the facts in the allegation and the legal processes and principles adhered to. Moreover, the US can be obstinate when it comes to these matters and the courts may set the principle that an extradition is not possible under the constitution. In other words, the US may - and likely will - refuse to accept this new UK law except in the most egregious cases.The US has a long history of extraterritorial application of its laws and refusing to attorn to the jurisdiction of others.

Yes, Tundrus. The USA has no extradition treaty with the UK; I alluded to this in the article/ However, if the criminal goes over the border to a country that does, then they may well get arrested and deported to the UK for trial. It works both ways:

The US was used as an example both for the process of extradition and for the US reluctance to do anything which it considers to be an infringement of a "constitutional right", which is often viewed broadly. Moreover, the US frequently applies it laws in an extraterritorial fashion when it serves. I believe there is a treaty in place between the US and the UK, although I have no opinion as to its usefulness.

Re: the downvotes on Ivor Rackham to Tundrus Photo April 29, 2022

Why are people downvoting a neutral exchange of information?

I don't get it.

Can anyone explain?

Thanks for exploring this and sharing.

I understand it was meant hyperbolically, but still: as a matter of fact, it is definitely not illegal to be gay in Russia. ;)

Re: "I understand it was meant hyperbolically, but still: as a matter of fact, it is definitely not illegal to be gay in Russia. ;)"

US official says Brittney Griner is in 'good condition' in Russian Prison - theguardian. com Mar 23, 2022 - Basketball star detained in Russia over drug allegations · Olympic champion faces up to 10 years in jail if found guilty.

Anf that's just a gay visitor, not even a gay Russian resident.

But I imagine there are "no gays in Russia", so Brittney Griner is a solo exception, right?

By the way, without equal rights, or rights at all, that's a measure of being "illegal", isn't it?

Thanks for exploring this and sharing.

Never heard of her, but still, you even quote the reason for her detainment (a hash vaporizer, according to wiki). I won't guess whether that reason is somewhat valid or constructed, because I have little confidence Russian authorities are particularly fair, to say the least; but such detainments are relative normal in many countries. Personaly, I don't think people should be dragged before the law because of the contents of their luggage, but I am not silly enough to focus my tunnel vision and single out Russia in that context.

Now, you are spinning this as a story about LGBT rights in Russia without any reasonable grounds - at least it seems so. Frankly, I don't understand your point. As a matter of fact, it's most definitely not illegal to be gay in Russia. Equal right are a completely different thing to legality and illegality.

Re: "... Fra Kresch Peter Blaise - May 10, 2022 Never heard of her, but still, you even quote the reason for her detainment (a hash vaporizer, according to wiki). I won't guess whether that reason is somewhat valid or constructed, because I have little confidence Russian authorities are particularly fair, to say the least; but such detainments are relative normal in many countries. Personaly, I don't think people should be dragged before the law because of the contents of their luggage, but I am not silly enough to focus my tunnel vision and single out Russia in that context. Now, you are spinning this as a story about LGBT rights in Russia without any reasonable grounds - at least it seems so. Frankly, I don't understand your point. As a matter of fact, it's most definitely not illegal to be gay in Russia. Equal right are a completely different thing to legality and illegality ..."

The 'gay in Russia" is in response to "... dred lew - April 29, 2022 [ snipped ] Just because it’s illegal to be gay in Russia ..."

Brittney Griner was just a current example, see

Read Wikipedia and follow it's references published elsewhere to revisit the legal status, or illegal status of being gay in Russia:

I cannot imagine a more self-contradictory statement than: "... Equal rights are a completely different thing to legality and illegality ..."

As Wikipedia summarizes [ snipped ]: "... same-sex couples are ineligible for the legal protections available to opposite-sex couples. Russia provides no anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people, nor does it prohibit hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity ... there are currently no laws prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity or expression, and recent laws could discriminate against transgender residents ... gay and lesbian individuals are legally not allowed to serve openly in the military ..."

So ... what are you thinking?

That's it's not illegal to be gay, but gays can be treated like criminals - by anyone - and yet, it's not illegal to be gay?

That's a difference without distinction.

On the one hand, we've wandered from the central thrust of the topic:

- "How the United Kingdom’s New Online Safety Bill Will Affect Photographers Worldwide"

On the other hand, we've circumnavigating it, exploring same-same analogies.

Thanks for exploring this and sharing.

" Countries cannot just impose its laws onto others."

The GDPR has already done this haha. It's why every websites you go to now asks you about cookies.

The requirement for cookie banners (I loathe them) predates GDPR, but you are right. Although, I think the US has a similar law too now.

Yeah they really suck :( I didn't know those kinds of requirements existed before GDPR and I am very surprised the US has any laws regarding cookie usage at all. I'm going to have to do some research in US law on the subject. It would be interesting to see how we handle this subject.

I don't know that much about the US laws, but I it think it might be different in various States. Check California Consumer Privacy Act, (CCPA/CPRA) and Virginia Consumer Data Protection Act,( CDPA)

Re: "every website you go to now asks you about cookies"

I don't see them, filtered by third-party adblockers and reading/printing-mode CSS filtering and reformatting such as Print Friendly.

Now I wonder if we can have similar third-party blockers filter out criminally offensive material?

On the one hand, my browsing is cleaner.

On the other hand, the crap and the crappers are still out there.

However, developing such filters might make them more readily available to broadcasters, websites, especially websites with comment sections, ISPs, DNS servers, even corporate and home routers, and so on.

Then I can see someone developing a filter that captures offending data, and documents it for prosecution, even if it's never 'seen' by any person, supposedly never 'harmed' anyone.

- - - - -

Is copyright next, or already being implemented, considering how inexpensive big data is becoming?

Such as Disney or Warner cataloging the "fair use" of their movie clips, and any clips that are longer than 30 seconds get dinged, filtered, and prosecuted.

Music re-use, too.

YouTube already takes down discussions/reviews of material unless it's interrupted frequently during the re-presentation so as to not be a continuous rebroadcast of presumably other people's copyright material - how do they know, how do they do that, or is that the result of copyright-owner takedown notice vigilance?

Does anyone on YouTube do an 'art' review of other people's copyright still images, including photographs, how would that be handled?

Would it be acceptable to show a copy of someone else's copyright picture during the review if, say, my hand was covering the picture somewhat by pointing to it's elements over the picture all the time, or if it were substantially distorted, such as shown at a more than 24-degree angle to the camera, or if it were always smaller than my head, or what?

I can't imagine 29-seconds would avoid Magnum asking for a takedown and subsequently prosecuting.

Would a judge not convict if no one saw the offense, because it was successfully filtered, because, in theory, no one was harmed?

Or if I'm introducing subject-creep by wandering over to copyrights, let me know, we can await a separate thread presentation, or is there an appropriate copyright fair use versus infringement thread already somewhere on Fstoppers?

Thanks for exploring this and sharing, folks.

That's the way business works. Blocking illegal content will be costly, and those businesses are earning huge amounts of money. It will be up to them whether they swallow the cost or find a way of charging us for that. But, I cannot see them wanting to lose the UK's custom, not the EU's who are introducing a similar regulation soon.

The UK on its own may be too small a market to bother with, unless their law is similar to EU regulations.

As a member of the G7, I think it may have more of an impact than you think, Cieran. Also, the EU are following the UK in introducing parallel legislation, and other democratic nations are considering enacting similar laws too. The UK is just the first to take this route to protect its democracy.

Re: " “It will be the service providers’ responsibility to protect the public”. No, honey. World works differently. It will be the customer who will pay for that. Either with more ads or worse content."

We're paying now by footing the bill for the cost of the damages of such content, it's damaging us everywhere, perhaps the most extreme example is in Russia's propaganda-propped-up war against Ukraine, but every country has incidents and ongoing damage that we all pay for.

Note: I filter advertising and other 'noise', but it's still "out there".

We all pay at one end or the other.

I for one prefer prevention of harm, if possible.

The challenge will be to see if 'freedom' can be protected while preventing 'harm'.

Why not try?

Thanks for exploring this and sharing, folks.

I’ve found YouTube to be easily the worst place on the internet for trolls. Twitter and Instagram (that are also pretty bad) get the main headlines but YouTube is a low-key meeting place for the worst kind of human beings, and it’s because they have no governance around comments.

I’ve come to the conclusion that channel and content owners don’t care, because any traffic is good traffic for them, otherwise you would see more accounts removed from the platform.

Yes, and this will be a change for the better, I hope.

I’ve found with YouTube, the flagging system is totally unfit for purpose. The times I have flagged spam and nasty comments, after refreshing the browser, those comments reappear. Trolls (and spammers) have been getting away with their nasty behaviour for far too long. When people exercise their right to respond to those comments, the trolls get really abusive and nasty, often proclaiming they won’t be silenced.

Yeah couldn't agree more, my main personal problem is I often cant just scroll past, I have to reply and question their crappy behaviour... something I need to work on:)

I don't value safety or security very highly. But I value personal freedom and personal pleasure to an extreme degree.

Based on my personal values, I am a bit concerned that this new bill could adversely affect the amount of enjoyment that I derive from the internet.

Lee Christiansen said,

"We share this little ball of rock with others, so we compromise and that reduces our personal freedoms."

Yes, what you say here is certainly true.

But what is always the crux of the issue is to what exact degree we compromise personal freedom for the "greater collective good".

Personally, I like an absolute minimum of collective good bias, and prefer as much personal freedom as possible, within reasonable restraints.

But, as you say, most of the world seems to be swinging in the other direction, and are more than happy to sacrifice their own freedom and pleasure so that everybody else can feel safe or whatever. At least the country in which I live isn't as far gone as the rest of the world, but I still don't have as much freedom as people here in the U.S. had 50 or 100 years ago.

I suppose the pertinent question is whether this legislature aims to limit the destructive elements of online environment and therefore care for safety of internet users - or if it is in fact a part of broader governmental offensive against "internet freedom" (whatever that means).

Governments want control. (E. g. our government - a central (eastern - for most of the western world) European country - tried to implement a spying system storing driver movement data as part of transition to an electronic highway toll system... and guess what, according to the government, the law abiding citizen should have had nothing to fear.) So I certainly see what Tom Reichner means, such a cynic I am.

I have little confidence in good intentions of UK's government... but probably, one should just rewatch episode 4 of Yes minister, series 1, keep calm and carry on with obedient parotting of government propaganda. :)

"But, as you say, most of the world seems to be swinging in the other direction, and are more than happy to sacrifice their own freedom and pleasure so that everybody else can feel safe or whatever. At least the country in which I live isn't as far gone as the rest of the world, but I still don't have as much freedom as people here in the U.S. had 50 or 100 years ago."

Civil Rights Act of 1964
Fair Housing Act of 1968

So it was more free for who?

"Personally, I like an absolute minimum of collective good bias, and prefer as much personal freedom as possible, within reasonable restraints"

You sound like you'd rather not be bothered to consider how your own freedoms might be causing harm to others. You should probably define what "absolute minimum" means.

I don't speak for Tom, but from a Libertarian view, as long as your freedoms/my freedoms don't infringe on your freedoms/my freedoms, we're good. What I, along with many, many others notice is government's strategy of incremental creep. Just a little at a time. Those in power know that trying to remove big chunks would throw up a red flag, so they look at the long game. Just a nibble here and a nibble there until they get to their goal.

The adage, 'absolute power corrupts absolutely' is on full display, and it's not just one entity or another, it's pervasive in the political class. Governments have their duty, that is undeniable. But more and more, the government and an increasing number of people are wanting to remove more and more of life's decisions from the masses. I'll have assumed room temperature before it happens, but at some point, there's going to be a lot of the proletariat doing the ole' forehead slap and asking,"what happened?"

I know I'm in the minority and don't really care. One last bit of 'trivia'. I used to live in Louisiana. After a legislative session, the majority of the legislators said it was an unsuccessful session because they only passes a little over 800 new laws and mandates. That is pathetic in the extreme.

and someone else somewhere else is gonna make those decisions on what is bad or what is pornagraphic or what is hurtful??? thanks....I no what..since a shit-ton of people have siri or whatever in their homes/offices already listening in on them 24/7 - lets see if they are saying naughty things in private -shesh..we do not want people like that we? Everything bad has to go! and by everything bad..I really mean stuff I do not like

Assuming your enjoyment doesn't involve harm to others, such as selling illegal drugs, child pornography, rape, and insitement to commit acts of terrorism, etc, all of which, according to a multitude of reports, can be found via Google and social media, then there will be no difference.

I have a bad feeling about this. There seems to be a huge social movement gathering steam, based on the idea that being "offended" is the same as being "threatened", and that we should be steadily lowering the bar for what offends us.

Not much offends me, I do however hate trolls, and unfortunately most social platforms are littered with them. People who dig deep to find the most obscure things to be negative about with regards to anything they can lay their hands on. It’s pathetic and needs stamping out

Wait - being "negative" is something that "needs stamping out"?

Not in itself, but this incessant trolling of, for example review videos, where you can clearly tell the person is just trolling, that needs stamping out. It’s pathetic and offers nothing.

Look on any photography or DJ gear related video on YouTube and it’s the same band of sad individuals on every single one, be if arguing about price, equivalence, brands or whatever… they never stop and all it’s doing is making the internet a massively toxic place.

These people wouldn’t socialise with other humans and go on like that in person, yet it’s ok to on the Internet.

Another prime example and a recent trend is every time someone dies and it makes the news they now say ‘must be the vaccine’ or similar. All these people are seriously disturbed attention seekers.

You have the choice to watch or not watch whatever you want. You are your own censor.

Its not the content I have an issue with, its the vile people commenting on said content.

Simply avoid the comment section or pass over the comments that upset you.

Thanks captain obvious, I’m not sure how I’ve survived so long without your amazing advice.

The point is, the comments are still there, that’s the problem, not the fact I can choose to read them or not. I don’t expect this to sink in though so don’t bother replying.

Your triggers are your issues. Look how upset you are just because you don't agree with someone on a simple photography site. Sometime you just need to do the obvious and remove yourself if you feel the troubling feelings coming on rather than posting the same kind of vile comments you dislike.

Well done for including a buzzword in there, im not triggered about anything, I have a point of view about people who create anonymous internet profiles purely to make derogatory comments on social platforms... looking at your comment history and profile, its plainly obvious why you are trying to get a reaction out of me about it, if the cap fits and all that.

Not everyone is offended by the same things. That is the only point. Just because you are offended doesn't mean that others are equally offended. It's up to you and you alone to monitor the content you wish to view. Seems simple and yes obvious but that is the only fair solution.

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