Online Safety Bill & What it Means for VPNs

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Obviously, the UK government’s Online Safety Bill has always been destined to fail.

In the opinion of VPN Hound, this is a prime example of government overreach, and a shameful effort to curb online freedoms. The bill has a number of strict (and mostly unworkable) measures that aim to enforce internet regulations on what people can access. It is an affront to all our personal right to access information.

The UK government is, of course, touting the bill as a means to protect vulnerable groups, such as children, from harmful content. This is the predictable moral grandstanding that, sadly, isn’t limited to any particular country’s government. Of course in reality, it won’t do anything of the sort.

One of the new targets identified by those who support the bill is the humble VPN, as these pose an obvious threat to the government’s ability to control what people can access online.

Things seem to be reaching almost hysterical levels in the UK, as Labour MP Sarah Champion has urged a crackdown on all VPNs. She even goes as far to suggest that the telecoms regulator Ofcom should “examine” whether VPNs are undermining the “enforcement” of internet regulations – before the Online Safety Bill has even been voted on.

Are these what you’d call experts on internet privacy?

What is the Online Safety Bill?

The bill aims to combat the spread of child sexual exploitation and terrorism by targeting social media platforms and search engines in the UK. However, the use of vague wording in the bill has raised concerns about the extent to which it could be used to censor online content.

How might it work?

One of the key provisions of the bill is the requirement for age verification checks to prevent children from accessing inappropriate content. The bill proposes that both ISPS and even some websites must verify the age of users before granting access to certain content.

The implementation of age verification checks could take different forms. One option is for websites to use a third-party age verification service that confirms the user’s age based on their personal details, such as their name and address. Another option is to use a digital ID system that verifies the user’s age through their government-issued ID or passport. We’ve seen these before in the UK and they’ve always been extremely unpopular ideas. Will the Online Safety Bill finally succeed in introducing such onerous and problematic ‘checks’? Let’s hope so.

How will it affect VPN users?

VPN users will likely be affected by the bill, as Champion has voiced concerns that many can just use VPNs to bypass age verification controls. VPNs are encrypted connections to the internet that mask a person’s identity, making it difficult for websites to track such usage.

However, if the amendment proposed by Champion is passed, it could lead to restrictions on VPN usage in the UK. This could have serious implications for internet users who rely on VPNs to protect their privacy and bypass censorship.

As the bill moves through Parliament, it is important for lawmakers to consider the potential unintended consequences of their actions and to ensure that the rights of internet users are protected.

While the government’s efforts to combat child sexual exploitation and terrorism online are laudable, the use of vague language in teh bill and the proposed crackdown on VPNs are cause for extreme concern. As the bill moves through Parliament, it is important for lawmakers to consider the potential unintended consequences of their actions and to ensure that the rights of internet users are protected.

Personally, I worry deeply about this level of government meddling in our private lives, from nothing but a bunch of boomers who are in many cases unelected. Sarah Champion proves – like most  politicians – that she doesn’t understand technology or VPNs or how they work.

How do you know that this bill will fail?

We don’t, but we’re hoping that common sense will prevail.

This website has a list of the entire regulatory requirements for small companies, who will be the ones to suffer the most from this in the UK if it gets passed.

This Bill has been aggressively promoted as being about “big tech” “social media” “tech giants”, but it is not, and it never was.

Whatever the truth is, it’s completely unfair to ask small companies and website owners to do risk assessments like this, and that would be blatantly obvious to anyone who has even a basic understanding of how the internet works.

What kind of penalties will there be?

Assuming it’s passed into law, the bill could potentially impose penalties of up to 10% of a company’s global turnover for failing to comply with censorship or removal requests that “violate” the bill.

Of course, imposing fines on companies for not catching violations quickly enough will only lead to unintended consequences for both users and platforms. In a world where compliance is the only option or be massively fined, blanket censors will reduce the risk of accidental noncompliance. The weight of governmental power extends into the digital world, leaving little room for those who wish to challenge its authority.

And while the protection of children and prevention of terrorism are important causes, the responsibility of policing social media platforms are clearly not the jobs of private companies.

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How can I get around this, even if it’s passed into law?

Use an always-on VPN! These will always allow you to get around government based limits without having to worry about switching it on or off. Access to “innocent” content should not be restricted in the name of protecting children or combating terrorism, after all.

VPNs like NordVPN, ExpressVPN or Surfshark will  bem ore than happy to jump in and fill this void by protecting users from prying eyes and censorship online – they are all located outside of UK jurisdictive reach, even if the bill is passed.

There’s some concern about the bill containing client-side scanning, but even this is easy to forge. VPNs allow you to circumvent all sorts of censorship based on your location by making your traffic appear to originate from another country and using end-to-end encryption. They provide a much-needed layer of security for people who want to exercise their right to access information and content in a world where internet liberties are becoming worryingly endangered.

The other thing you can do is, if you live in the UK, exercise your to vote but never vote for Lib/Lab/Con or any party who restricts digital freedom.


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