Britain Talks of Regulating Big Tech

Theresa May
UK prime minister Theresa May. Reuters

The British government proposal will regulate social media, search, messaging and various other platforms for content that causes “online harm.” Such content includes terrorism, serious violence, hate crimes, harassment, disinformation, encouragement of self-harm and suicide, abuse of public figures, interference with legal proceedings, cyber-bullying, and children accessing inappropriate content.

The white paper(can be found here) by the UK’s Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, include a new independent regulator that would police these platforms for harmful content.

The consultation on the white paper began today and will close 12 weeks from now on July 1st. The UK government will then publish it’s response, summarize responses received and set out the action it will or have taken to develop a final proposal for legislation.

-Online Harms White Paper foreward

“The internet is an integral part of everyday life for so many people. Nearly nine in ten UK adults and 99% of 12 to 15 year olds are online. As the internet continues to grow and transform our lives, often for the better, we should not ignore the very real harms which people face online every day.
In the wrong hands the internet can be used to spread terrorist and other illegal or harmful content, undermine civil discourse, and abuse or bully other people. Online harms are widespread and can have serious consequences.
Two thirds of adults in the UK are concerned about content online, and close to half say they have seen hateful content in the past year. The tragic recent events in New Zealand show just how quickly horrific terrorist and extremist content can spread online.
We cannot allow these harmful behaviours and content to undermine the significant benefits that the digital revolution can offer. While some companies have taken steps to improve safety on their platforms, progress has been too slow and inconsistent overall. If we surrender our online spaces to those who spread hate, abuse, fear and vitriolic content, then we will all lose.
So our challenge as a society is to help shape an internet that is open and vibrant but also protects its users from harm. The UK is committed to a free, open and secure internet, and will continue to protect freedom of expression online. We must also take decisive action to make people safer online.
This White Paper therefore puts forward ambitious plans for a new system of accountability and oversight for tech companies, moving far beyond self-regulation. A new regulatory framework for online safety will make clear companies’ responsibilities to keep UK users, particularly children, safer online with the most robust action to counter illegal content and activity.
This will be overseen by an independent regulator which will set clear safety standards, backed up by reporting requirements and effective enforcement powers.
Although other countries have introduced regulation to address specific types of harm, this is the first attempt globally to address a comprehensive spectrum of online harms in a single and coherent way.”

“New rules for the Internet should protect society from harm while also supporting innovation, the digital economy and freedom of speech,” Facebook said in a statement. “These are complex issues to get right and we look forward to working with the Government and Parliament to ensure new regulations are effective.”

Daniel Dyball, UK executive director of the Internet Association, said that: “the scope of the recommendations is extremely wide, and decisions about how we regulate what is and is not allowed online should be made by parliament”

This sentiment is echoed by many others in the industry.