Friday, 19 April, 2019

UK's tough new internet rules are 'blunt tool'

UK to regulate social networks to curb the spread of harmful content Credit Tero Vesalainen Pixabay
Katie Ramirez | 11 April, 2019, 05:32

What we do know for sure is that the regulator will be able to hand out fines to any platforms that enable users to share and discover user generated content or interact with each other online, including social media platforms, file hosting sites, public discussion forums, messaging services, and search engines. Its proposals lack an assessment of the risk to free expression and omit any explanation as to how it would be protected.

The government plans to launch a consultation on the matter on Monday.

This white paper sets out a programme of action to tackle content or activity that harms individual users, particularly children.

Examples of online harms that will be in scope of the new regime include terrorist content, child sexual exploitation and abuse, organised immigration crime, incitement of violence, harassment and cyberstalking, hate crime, encouraging or assisting suicide, the sale of illegal goods or services, modern slavery, revenge pornography, cyberbullying and children accessing inappropriate material.

The UK government has put forward proposals for - what it has dubbed - "world first online safety laws" that will regulate social media and tech firms in a bid to make the internet safer for everybody.

It would also look at the enforcement powers of an independent regulatory body, potential redress mechanisms for online users, and measures to ensure the regulation was targeted and proportionate for industry.

The consultation on the government's online harms white paper is open until 1 July.

It also calls for powers to be given to a regulator to force internet firms to publish annual transparency reports on the harmful content on their platforms and how they are addressing it.

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"This is a hugely significant commitment by the Government that once enacted, can make the United Kingdom a world pioneer in protecting children online", NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless said in a statement.

"The Government's announcement today is a very important step in the right direction".

The Internet can be used to harass, bully or intimidate, especially people in vulnerable groups or in public life. While their products are constantly evolving and innovating, there is room for innovation on their approach to safeguarding.

"The fantastic opportunity the internet gives us should not be exploited by cynical and predatory sex offenders. This can promote disinformation by ensuring that users do not see rebuttals or other sources that may disagree and can also mean that users perceive a story to be far more widely believed than it really is", said the paper.

"We support the government's desire to make the United Kingdom the safest place to be online". The government is using Internet regulation as a blunt tool to try and fix complex societal problems.

"Proactive regulation and better technical solutions, whilst welcomed, are just one part of the solution". It would be unfair to leave those parents or guardians to figure it out for themselves.

"Every single terrorist atrocity that took place in the United Kingdom during 2017 included some element of online radicalisation or attack-planning, and we have been arguing for years that internet companies must take greater responsibility for the threat posed by material they host on their platforms", said Mr Basu.

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