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Signal to exit UK if Online Safety Bill harms encryption

Signal Online Safety Bill
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Messaging app Signal has said it will stop UK operations if the upcoming Online Safety Bill compromises encryption standards.

Speaking to the BBC, president Meredith Whittaker said the signal app “would absolutely, 100% walk”.

The Online Safety Bill, which had its second reading on 1 February, would give Ofcom additional powers to reduce the amount of harmful content on the internet.

“Many millions of people globally rely on us to provide a safe and secure messaging service to conduct journalism, express dissent, voice intimate or vulnerable thoughts, and otherwise speak to those they want to be heard by without surveillance from tech corporations and governments,” Whittaker told UKTN.

“We have never, and will never, break our commitment to the people who use and trust Signal. And this means that we would absolutely choose to cease operating in a given region if the alternative meant undermining our privacy commitments to those who rely on us.”

The bill is currently awaiting scrutiny at the Committee stage, with a date yet to be announced.

Joshua Long, head of communication, Mojeek, said: “Signal are right to push back against his measure, which is the thin end of a wedge when it comes to wider surveillance of private communications. It would likely require a backdoor, open for malicious actors as well as the government.”

“Unfortunately, Silicon Valley’s own techno-solutionism seems to have crossed the pond, and now has devoted supporters in Westminster.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak last month modified the Online Safety Bill to make executives from technology companies criminally accountable if the social media platforms they run repeatedly fail to protect children from harm.

Kent-based Comparitech’s security specialist Brian Higgins said: “Every platform will strike the balance they are most comfortable with and, once the legislative dust has settled, we’ll see where the market shifts. It’s a bold statement by Signal. I’m not sure others will be quite so firm in their stance.”

It was first brought into Parliament in March last year following years of discussion and setbacks.

Signal is a secure nonprofit privacy messaging app based in San Francisco, California.

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