The Online Safety Bill Is a ‘Playbook for Dictators’

Signal CEO Meredith Whittaker, in the Telegraph:

During my two decades in tech I’ve seen governments manufacture public outrage to serve their desire for control more times than I can count. There’s a predictable pattern that starts with a complex social problem receiving widespread attention. Everyone acknowledges the gravity of the issue. There is a rush to “do something”.

But “something” too often involves magical thinking and specious “solutions”. Frequently, technology is painted as both cause and solution. Problems are presented as existing “online” and thus their solution is framed as technological. This almost always involves some combination of expanding surveillance and curbing the fundamental human right to privacy and free expression.

Technology is not neutral, and I do not think Whittaker is implying that to be so. These opening paragraphs are a worthwhile reminder of understanding the nature of the problem in attempting to solve it. There is more to blame than end-to-end encryption for the problems it may exacerbate, and there are solutions which do not require making everybody less safe nor setting a horrible precedent.