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Internet safety on hold | Financial Times

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Today the UK’s much-anticipated Online Safety Bill has been put on hold until September when a new Prime Minister takes office.

The delay has brought relief to big tech companies and digital start-ups, all of whom have become increasingly concerned as changes to bills attempting to monitor the internet and protect users have been pushed through in recent weeks.

The proposed laws, developed over the past five years, would force tech platforms like Google, Facebook and Twitter to deal with harmful content online, ranging from illegal terrorist material and racial abuse to threats of damages and psychologically distressing messages or so-called “legal but harmful” content.

As one of the first laws to comprehensively regulate content on the internet, it has been closely watched by regulators around the world from the EU to Australia, and drafted their own versions.

The delay comes as new amendments voted on over the past week have drawn criticism from both business and civil society. Google, Facebook (now known as Meta, which also owns Instagram and WhatsApp) and Twitter have all expressed concern over a range of issues, including concerns about freedom of expression, extensive governmental powers and security vulnerabilities, including threats to encryption.

A change Announced earlier this month, Ofcom gave the power to order tech companies to redesign their platforms and develop entirely new technologies to detect inappropriate material, otherwise they could face fines. Facebook said in a public statement that doing so would require bypassing encryption and risked “setting a dangerous precedent globally.”

The fate of the bill now hangs in the balance. While many in the tech industry believe they will survive a new government, it’s unclear what the legislation will look like. As one technology policy figure put it, “The bill could become a dividing line for this leadership contest. Depending on the leader, it will be a different bill.”

Read more in my post here, with our chief political correspondent, Jim Pickard.

The Internet of (four) things

1. Venture capital firms in China lack money
Small and medium-sized investment firms in China face major fundraising challenges as global investors are deterred by China’s tech crackdown, draconian zero-Covid regime and the possibility of Western sanctions, as reported in this great part by Ryan McMorrow and Nian Liu in Beijing and FT colleagues in Hong Kong and London.

2. Netflix cooperates with Microsoft
As the American streaming giant struggles to reposition itself for leaner times, it has turned to Microsoft to build an ad-supported tier of its streaming service that will be cheaper. The news was particularly surprising given that the company’s chief executive officer, Reed Hastings, had previously been adamantly opposed to advertising, describing Netflix as an ad-free zone that allows viewers to “relax” without being “taken advantage of.” More here on the race to transition to ad-supported streaming from FT correspondents Anna Nicolaou and Richard Waters.

3. Amazon makes a peace offer to the EU
The e-commerce giant has announced that it will stop using third-party data to benefit its retail business. It’s part of a deal with Brussels that would see the EU end its two antitrust investigations into the company and also avoid a lengthy legal battle. Javier Espinoza reports from Brussels.

4. Can Twitter take on Musk?
I liked John Thornhill’s perspective this week that Twitter’s Musk trial in Delaware is “just another crazy episode in the life of one of the most extraordinary entrepreneurs in history.” As Dornhill saysit’s hard to see how Twitter can outsmart Musk — and whether victory is even desirable for the social media company.

Tech Tools – C SEED N1 TV

All hail the $190,000 TV. The Austrian company behind it doesn’t just describe it as a television, but rather as a sculpture or work of art. The C SEED N1, Constructed of aerospace aluminum, folds out from a discreet base that looks like a contemporary sculpture when not in use. It features 4K MicroLED technology and HDR10+ support, and comes with dual 100-watt speakers.

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