The organisation that runs the world’s most popular online encyclopaedia, Wikipedia, has warned that it may be banned from the United Kingdom as a result of forthcoming censorship legislation.
The British government’s newest attempt to regulate the internet may result in the blocking of UK users and contributors to Wikipedia, with the hosting Wikimedia Foundation charity stating that it will not comply with certain of the diktats in the so-called Online Safety Bill.
The chief executive of Wikimedia UK, Lucy Crompton-Reid, stated that a major stumbling block would be government demands for age verification checks, which the organisation stated it would not conduct because it would violate user privacy.
Crompton-Reid stated that it is “definitely possible” that “one of the most visited websites in the world” – which she described as a “vital source of freely accessible knowledge and information for millions of people” – will be inaccessible to UK users (mind alone UK-based authors).
According to the Wikimedia UK executive, it is possible that some of the articles, such as those about sexuality that contain educational images, could be construed as pornography, and thus the British government could force the online encyclopaedia to impose age verification checks on its UK users.
Under the proposed Online Safety Bill, social media companies and other websites will be subject to the jurisdiction of Britain’s national broadcasting regulator, Ofcom (The Office of Communications), which will be given internet censorship powers, including the ability to fine companies up to 10% of their global revenue or even outright ban them if they violate vaguely defined “harm” standards.
The bill would oblige online businesses to respect the country’s already stringent speech regulations, such as hate speech statutes and communications crimes, which include broad phrases like “grossly offensive.”
It would also require that large sites take preventative measures to prevent children from accessing explicit material, such as imposing age checks. It is not currently clear whether educational content, such as that found on Wikipedia, would be classified as pornographic.