Is Internet freedom at risk in the UK?

Is Internet freedom at risk in the UK?

What use do you have for a VPN in the UK? Compared to other countries, Internet freedom in the UK is mainly unrestricted, with citizens able to access major social media platforms and new content without facing any censorship. However, not only is there more to a UK VPN than circumventing online restrictions, but the Internet as we know it is about to face an overhaul.

A new Internet age

The UK government is working to make the UK the "safest place in the world to be online" with an ambitious but contentious new internet safety bill that grants the government broad powers to crack down on social media corporations such as TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram parent Meta.

According to the government, the online safety bill passed in September of this year will make Britain the safest place in the world to use the Internet. However, digital rights organizations claim it jeopardizes online privacy and free speech.

Understanding the details

According to the new legislation, social media networks must remove criminal content such as child sexual abuse, hate speech and terrorism, revenge porn, and posts encouraging self-harm. They must also prevent such content from appearing in the first place and provide users with more controls, including the ability to block anonymous trolls.

According to the government, the law takes a "zero tolerance" approach to protecting children by holding platforms legally accountable for their online safety. Platforms will be expected to prevent children from accessing content that, while not illegal, may be harmful or inappropriate for their age, such as porn, bullying, praising eating disorders, or providing suicide instructions.

What if tech companies won't comply?

​​The rule applies to any internet corporation, regardless of location, as long as a UK user may access its services. Companies who do not comply risk penalties of up to £18 million ($22 million) or 10% of their annual global sales, whichever is greater.

Senior executives at technology firms may also risk criminal prosecution and prison time if they fail to respond to information requests from UK regulators. They'll also face criminal charges if their corporation ignores authorities' warnings regarding child sex abuse and exploitation.

Why a VPN?

A VPN is a service that allows you to conceal your true identity and protect sensitive information while browsing the Internet. It works by relaying your internet connection through a private server and preventing attempts to determine the origins of your network. VPN services in the United Kingdom enable users to circumvent rigorous surveillance rules and browse the Internet in relative safety.

VPN services are becoming increasingly popular, not just because of the rise of remote work, but also as a result of increasingly ubiquitous legislation around the world - including in the United Kingdom. The government has already passed the Investigatory Powers Act, which empowers government-owned organizations to compel internet companies to provide sensitive user information.

The recently passed Online Safety Bill will be phased into use, but the concerns around Internet restrictions for citizens mean more people will turn to tools such as VPNs to safeguard their online freedom.

What a VPN can do for you

Prevent tracking

In addition to keeping a broad trail of your behavior for legal requirements, ISPs in the UK may go so far as to actively follow everything you do, with the nefarious objective of selling your data to third-party advertisers. Certain dubious websites have been known to use similar techniques, such as placing trackers on your browser and tracking your activity for sale to sponsors and advertising.

VPN connections efficiently prohibit any online activity from being tracked by a specific website or your internet provider. This protects your sensitive data and provides you with much-needed online privacy.

Access geo-restricted content

Since the introduction of streaming services such as Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer, many consumers have decided to forego cable television in favor of an exclusively online entertainment experience. However, depending on where you are, viewing some television programs may not be easy, as streaming services restrict certain content based on geographic area.

Fortunately, Netflix VPN services can assist you in simply circumventing such restrictions by impersonating your internet location. This means that a UK user may be able to see shows that are only available on Netflix US. In contrast, UK nationals traveling overseas can use VPN services to see their native shows from geo-blocked countries.

Protect your identity

ISPs (internet service providers) and malevolent third parties can intercept your online activity as they can tap a landline connection. The Investigatory Powers Act of 2016 allows government agencies in the United Kingdom to compel ISPs to disclose their data and reveal their online activity without your consent.

VPNs utilize robust encryption technology, such as AES-256, to prevent third-party interception of your online communications. VPNs protect you from websites and social media platforms that may monitor your location using your IP address by rerouting your connection through a private server. 

Final thoughts

Although it is difficult to predict how the effects of the new online legislation will play out, we can safeguard our online freedom by utilizing VPN technology.