US, Australia & Canada raise concerns over Sri Lanka’s Online Safety Bill

US, Australia & Canada raise concerns over Sri Lanka’s Online Safety Bill

US, Australia & Canada raise concerns over Sri Lanka’s Online Safety Bill

Source : newswire

Several foreign nations have raised concerns about Sri Lanka’s new ‘Online Safety Bill’ (OSB), which was passed in Parliament this week. 

Taking to ‘X’, US Ambassador Julie Chung said the United States remains concerned about the potential impact of Sri Lanka’s Online Safety Bill.

She pointed out that the Bill has been passed without incorporating important input from key stakeholders, including civil society and tech companies who say that this legislation threatens freedom of expression, innovation, and privacy.

“In addition to jeopardizing democratic values, vague and overly restrictive legislation can hinder investment and the development of a digital economy, undermining the economic growth that Sri Lanka needs. The U.S. urges Sri Lanka to prioritize transparency and ensure any legislation does not stifle the voices of its people,” she added. 

Meanwhile, the Australian High Commissioner to Sri Lanka Paul Stephens said it is agreed that regulation of the internet is necessary, but how this is done is important. 

“Allowing space for freedom of expression, as well as innovation and development of a vibrant digital economy, is crucial to Sri Lanka’s economic growth and democracy.

“We encourage Sri Lanka to ensure the new Online Safety Act is implemented in accordance with international best practices and standards,” he said, taking to ‘X’.

Also taking to ‘X’, the Canadian High Commission in Sri Lanka said Canada shares the concerns that Sri Lanka’s Online Safety Act has the potential to harm economic recovery and restrict the legitimate discourse expected in a democratic society.

“To avoid this, any measures taken to address harmful content online must ensure protection of fundamental rights, including freedom of expression,” the Canadian High Commission added. 

The Online Safety Bill was passed in the Parliament of Sri Lanka on Wednesday (Jan 24) with a majority of MPs supporting the bill, despite the Opposition claiming that the amendments proposed were not consistent with the Supreme Court’s determination.

The Online Safety Bill was published in the Sri Lankan Government Gazette in September 2023.

The Supreme Court of Sri Lanka thereafter, determined that the several Online Safety Bill provisions are not consistent with the Constitution.

In October, the government agreed to revise the Bill in accordance with the Supreme Court’s determinations announced on November 07, 2023.

Key objectives of the bill include establishing the Online Safety Commission, making provisions to prohibit online communication of certain statements of fact in Sri Lanka, preventing the use of online accounts and inauthentic online accounts for prohibited purposes, making provisions to identify and declare online locations used for prohibited purposes in Sri Lanka, and to suppress the financing and other support of communication of false statements of fact. (NewsWire)

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