The UK government will on Thursday unveil a long-awaited set of measures to deal with a wide range of online damages, from bullying and fraud to child abuse, in an ambitious and controversial attempt to force big tech companies to control their networks.
Executives at the world’s largest technology companies, such as Meta, the owner of Facebook and Google’s mother, Alphabet, could face prison sentences if they do not meet some components of the new regime set by Opcom.
The communications and telecom regulator will also have the authority to criticize the algorithms that control what consumers see in their search results and social media updates, after hearing testimonials from Facebook’s sleepers Frances Hogen.
“We do not give it any thought when we fasten our seat belts to protect ourselves while driving. Given all the risks on the Internet, it only makes sense that we ensure basic protections similar to the digital age,” said Nadine Doris, culture secretary.
As the Conservative government tries to balance freedom of expression with some of the world’s toughest restrictions on online abuse, it risks frustrating both the technology industry and security supporters, as well as some MPs in the series.
Last month, the former Brexit minister Lord David Frost Was among a handful of MPs from the Liberal wing of the ruling party who raised concerns about whether the right balance has been struck between freedom of expression and the protection of the most vulnerable to the dangers of the internet.
If the online safety bill is approved by parliament, it could become law later this year. But the details of one of its most controversial components – a demand for the so-called biggest internet platforms for the police “Legal but Harmful” Abuses such as racism or bullying – will only be detailed later through secondary legislation that requires less scrutiny from MPs than the original bill.
In an apparent waiver of strong opposition from technology companies to the government’s previous proposals, Opcom will not be able to order the use of “proactive” content management tools in private messages or legal content.
Large technology companies will need to conduct risk assessments on a variety of issues defined as “priority damages”, and then determine in their terms and conditions whether to allow them or not. Failure to remove content that companies say they will ban could eventually lead to fines of up to 10% of each company’s annual turnover.
Changes since the original draft include new obligations to prevent online fraud committed through paid advertisements and criminalization of “cyber flashes” whereby people expose themselves to strangers online.
Calls to ban anonymous users from major internet platforms, which escalated following racist abuse of English footballers last summer Murder of MP David Ames In October, they were eventually rejected by the government. Instead, social media users will be given the option to block any account that has not verified their offline identity.
Julian Knight, chair of the select committee for culture and media, noted that the government has “listened” to concerns surrounding issues such as cyberbullying.
“We are particularly pleased that Parliament and not technology companies will play the key and crucial role of what is legal but harmful content,” he added.
However, the Open Rights Group, an online civil liberties activist, said the plan was a “Orwellian censorship machine”.
Labor has questioned the length of time it takes to bring the bill to parliament – the legislation was originally proposed four years ago and a draft was first released last May – adding that in the meantime, misinformation and other damages have been allowed to rage online.
“While we support the principles of the bill that is finally being published, a delay up to this point involves significant costs,” said Lucy Powell, shadow culture secretary. “The big technology companies will not regulate themselves. The government must ensure that the bill can deal with disinformation on the Internet.”
Details of UK online safety bill to be unveiled in bid to take on Big Tech Source link Details of UK online safety bill to be unveiled in bid to take on Big Tech