Signal hints at leaving United Kingdom market following passage of Online Safety Bill

Prior to its approval, critics of the United Kingdom’s Online Safety Bill campaigned for modifications, arguing that the measure might provide authorities with a backdoor into end-to-end encryption services.

A bill aimed at regulating certain internet services in the United Kingdom, including metaverse activity, has passed through parliament and is awaiting King Charles’ approval before becoming law.

The United Kingdom government said on September 19 that the Online Safety Bill had cleared a final debate in parliament and would become law in the country “soon.” Legislators had previously argued whether legislation geared at protecting online users, particularly minors, might be extended to virtual environments such as the metaverse.

The final version of the bill, according to the government, will oblige social media sites to “remove illegal content quickly or prevent it from appearing in the first place,” with a focus on material deemed damaging to children. Users will also require risk evaluations outlining how to report online safety problems.

“If social media platforms do not comply with these rules, the Office of Communications may fine them up to £18 million or 10% of their global annual revenue, whichever is greater,” the government warned.

Meredith Whittaker, head of the Signal Foundation, stated in a Sept. 20 X post that the encrypted messaging app may depart the United Kingdom if the company is “forced to build a backdoor” under the restrictions of the Online Safety Bill. Her statement came after the final vote on modifications in parliament, which did not include any safeguards for such encrypted services. The signal will never jeopardize our privacy assurances or the encryption on which they rely. Our position remains unchanged: we will continue to do everything possible to ensure that people in the UK may use Signal. But if it came down to having to build a backdoor or leaving, we’d choose the latter.

The approval of the Online Safety Bill coincided with the passage of the Economic Crime and Corporate Transparency Bill, which aims to combat crypto-related financial crimes in the United Kingdom. Lawmakers will review final revisions to the legislation before it is passed, but the most current version appears to give U.K. authorities more power to investigate and seize cryptocurrency used for illegal purposes. The United Kingdom Travel Rule, which applies to crypto businesses selling services to residents, comes into force on September 1st, following adoption in nations such as the United States, Japan, and Germany. Firms may be required by the framework to halt certain crypto transfers from jurisdictions that are not already in accordance with the Travel Rule.

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